One year ago, I joined the rarified atmosphere of the Emeritus Society of Florida State University.
I achieved this single honor by remaining vertical for 50 years after my graduation. I was one of probably 1,000 to 1,500 seniors to march across the stage in 1962, graduating Lordy how cum. I was not a stellar student.
The ranks of the Emeritus Society are far thinner (though its individual members cannot say the same) since you have to return to Tallahassee to receive your handsome brass medallion, suspended from a garnet and gold ribbon. We emeriti number only in the dozens each year.
While FSU’s lasting respect for my mediocre academic career may be a factor, I suspect that being selected for this honor as one embarks on one’s seventh decade may have something to do with the fact that by that age, it is time to start having serious meetings with your estate lawyer.
There’s something called “planned giving,” which I think has to do with how you want what you leave behind to be distributed to various institutions.
Sorry, guys, but you got my participation in the Greater FSU Forever Fund during my freshman year. I got an overtime parking ticket, for which the fine was $5. When I protested the amount, I was told that the money went to the scholarship fund, and I should be proud to support it.
To put things in perspective, in my freshman year I was employed 15 hours a week for 75 cents an hour as a student assistant in the FSU News Bureau. That $5 was close to half a week’s pay. (And I will confess that this is the only job I ever held in which I felt I did not earn what they were paying me.)
At any rate, I vowed then and there that my support of FSU, beyond the mandatory payment for tuition and books, started and stopped with that $5.
Over the years, Princeton University, George Washington University, the University of Florida, the University of South Florida, Asbury Theological Seminary, Florida Southern College, Polk Community College, and Valencia Community College have all received funds from the Frisbie coffers, for tuition payments or scholarship contributions (mostly tuition), or both.
But when it comes to contributions to my alma mater, I have the memory of an elephant and the stubbornness of a mule.
Today, Mary and I conclude this weekend’s celebration of her induction into the Emeritus Society; this year marks the 50th anniversary of her graduation, achieved with significantly higher academic recognition than my own. We now have matching medallions.
During our weekend in Tallahassee, we visited the campus on several occasions, once for a tour of the Robert Manning Strozier Library. It towers seven stories over Landis Green, five stories higher than when Mary and I graduated.
Dr. Strozier was president of FSU from 1957 to 1960; he was president during my freshman and sophomore years.
He died of a heart attack while on a trip to Chicago at the age of 53. His biography said that he was on “a speaking engagement” at his alma mater, the University of Chicago. It was generally believed at the time that he was applying for the presidency of that institution.
For the record, he was hired at FSU for an annual salary of $17,500, an increase of $2,500 over the salary prior to his hiring.
While many students criticized him for seeking a better job, I could not; I did the same thing one year earlier, leaving my student assistantship at 75 cents an hour to go to work as a reporter at The Tallahassee Democrat for $1 an hour. And unlike my FSU job, I earned every penny, as well as the 25 percent raise I got when minimum wage went to $1.25.
I actually met Dr. Strozier one evening. I was taking a night class in psychology, and the psych building was directly across the street from the college administration building, Westcott Hall.
One night I couldn’t find a parking place, and a campus cop suggested that I park in the four-car parking lot provided for the president, vice president, and two other top officials at the university. They never worked at night, he assured me.
I chose the spot reserved for Dr. Strozier; it was the closest to academic greatness I would ever come. Other than to meet the man himself.
One evening as I was getting into my car after class, a distinguished gentleman drove into the parking lot, parked next to me, got out of his car, glared at me, and said, “Good evening, Mr. President.”
Recognizing him instantly, I replied, “Good evening, Dr. Strozier.”
I never parked in his space again.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. His will does not call for “planned giving” of his estate to FSU or any other academic institution. His plan is to take it with him. He has made contingency plans that will distribute the money to his heirs if this doesn’t prove possible.)