67. Windward Community College

67.  Windward Community College

When I was almost through with my Master’s degree at the University of Hawaii, I saw an ad for a marketing manager at Seal Life Park.  I had taken Travel Industry Management, TIM, as a possible application for my emphasis in intercultural communication.  I thought Sea Life Park would be a fun place to work, so I made an appointment with the Personnel Manager for an interview.

The manager looked at my resume, and said, “You don’t want to work here, with three degrees and eight years experience teaching at the college level, you should be teaching.”

Shortly thereafter, I saw an article in the newspaper that the University was opening a new branch campus on the grounds of the Hawaii State Hospital.  Interviews for faculty would begin at the end of June.  Betty and I were planning to head home to Michigan as soon as graduation was over at the beginning of June.  I called the provost of the new Windward Community College, and he and the dean agreed to meet with me ahead of the schedule.  I was hired on the spot!  The interview ended with them asking me for advice in choosing another applicant for the Speech Department.

Some of the buildings that had housed mental patients were being renovated to be classrooms and offices of the new Windward Community College.  Classes would begin at the beginning of September on a trimester schedule with 75 minute classes.  We had to be back in August to help with registration and orientation.  With divine guidance,      I had a job!  What a relief!

The Windward Community College is a beautiful campus — with broad lawns and huge banyan trees.  It was located at the foot of a high sharp mountain range, the Koolaus, that formed a huge green cyclorama that had waterfalls cascading down the sides when it rained.  The administration challenged us to be innovative and set a free wheeling, no pressure atmosphere, so it was a fun situation.

Renovation was a little behind schedule, so my first office was a small room with a small window in the door, and bars on the small window high in the wall.  I was in the maximum security building just down the hall from a section of double-gated cells that had been used for the violent and criminally insane.  Fortunately, I was moved to another building when classes began.

The fun began.  Classes were limited to 25 students, just perfect.  There were a lot of adult students, such as housewives, police officers, and Marine Corp wives from the air station who were taking classes while their husbands were deployed.  Average age in the classes was 25.  These students wanted to learn, so it was a rewarding situation.  Most of the younger students would transfer to the main campus to finish a bachelor’s degree.

One day, in the middle of a class, a young woman ran in the back door of the classroom, sat down, and lit a cigarette.  Then two men appeared, one grabbed her arm, and pulled her from the room.  She yelled, “I’m taking this class, you can’t take me.”  I turned to the students, and remarked, “now what do we do?”

When I reported to the Provost, he called the Hospital and confirmed that the young lady was a patient who had gone for a walk.  Not a problem, but we were reminded that we were on the grounds of a hospital for the mentally disturbed.

I taught 17 wonderful years at Windward Community College.