An excerpt from my next book, Morgantown to San Francisco:
I was not prepared for college level work. The first semester was brutal, I managed to squeeze by with a 2.0 average. Without my genius room-mate Paul Davis, I would not have made it. He could do our math homework in half the time it took me. We were disciplined. Every evening we locked our door and studied for two hours and then took a short break to shoot the bull with our dormitory mates. Paul was the first of two room-mates who, after graduating from WVU, went to MIT.
Ralph Rippey was my second room-mate after Paul Davis. Ralph was a veteran of four years in the Navy. He was going to school on the G.I. Bill of Rights. Every morning, no matter how cold it was, he reached in the shower, turned the cold full blast and stepped in. Ralph walked at a fast pace, I almost had to run to keep up with him.
Ralph’s father was killed in a railroad accident, causing his mother to have to work as a waitress to support her family. He remembered snow on his bed coming through cracks in the walls. Ralph is one of an amazing group of exceptional people I have met over the years—brilliant, talented, compassionate, dedicated to doing what is right all the time.
I told Joe Nay, my roommate after Ralph Rippey graduated, that Democrats force Republicans to be Christians. Joe’s dad was a wildcat gas-well driller and I figure very conservative in his politics, given that Joe sure was.
Joe came in dirty from a night shift at the bureau of mines and was shunned by the other students in an economics class he was required to take as part of engineering requirements. He was shunned, that is, until his 100 on the first test was passed down his aisle.
A couple of years later I visited Joe in Boston, where he was attending MIT. He had a calculus test coming up the next day. Joe started to look at the book to study. I asked his wife if he had studied before that. She said he hadn’t opened the book. The next day, Joe got ninety percent on his first MIT calculus test.