When I reported to the Professor of Naval Science, University of Louisville on 7 June 1948 in order to participate in the Navy’s 5-term College Training Program, I doubt if anyone was more enthused or more quickly disappointed.
Of the dozen or so new arrivals all of the others were ex-enlisted men who had received wartime commissions. I had qualified for a commission by obtaining a third-assistant engineer’s license after graduating from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in mid 1943. The latter provided nine months practical experience at sea followed by six months of studies ashore. At that time, none of the wartime courses at the Academy were accredited for college purposes. The stated objective of the 5-term college program was to help close the education gap between U.S. Naval Academy graduates and those commissioned officers who had not been to college.
I had been persistent in my pursuit of further education as demonstrated by my successfully passing the U.S. Coast Guard’s Chief Engineer’s license examination, by completing additional mathematic courses at night while I was assigned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and by completing the Navy’s correspondence course in Elementary Nuclear Physics with a grade of 3.94 out of 4.0. I doubt that upon my arrival in Kentucky if there was anyone keener than I was to enroll in the University of Louisville’s highly reputed Speed School of Engineering.
“None of you dumb Navy types are again going to embarrass the Navy Department!” That is how Lieutenant Colonel E.C. Godbold of the U.S. Marine Corps and an assistant to the Professor of Naval Science, greeted us new arrivals. He added, “Because one of your type has just flunked out of the Speed School of Engineering, all of you are going into Arts and Sciences.”
My appeal was fruitless. Thus resigned to my fate I compensated by taking all of the math and physics courses that were available. An exchange professor for Physics 101 and 102, Dipl. Eng. Andresen from Berlin, was so effective as a teacher that I signed up for whatever additional courses that he conducted. Thus, I also studied nuclear science and electronics as presented by the University’s Physic Department.
Eighteen months after receiving an Associates of Arts degree from the University of Louisville, I was sent by the Navy to undertake the three-year course in Naval Engineering in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Graduate School. The students so enrolled were U.S. Naval Academy graduates or graduates from engineering colleges. Keeping up with that group was difficult for me, but thanks to some coaching from a fellow student, I survived. However, that experience caused me to realize something that was profound.
I seemed to be the only one who intuitively recognized, for example, that a way of solving a problem that had been presented during the study of fluid dynamics was the same as one presented during our study of electric-power distribution. Per Lieutenant Colonel Godbold’s mandate my studies in Louisville focused on logic rather that rote.
Thank you Lieutenant Colonel Godbold.
Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo