A reflection on my years as a graduate student at Southern Illinois University

Larry Franklin discussing his book at Longbranch Coffeehouse in 2013
   I was asked to give my thoughts on being a graduate student at Southern Illinois University.
   “I can’t teach you everything while you’re a graduate student, but I can show you how to find the answers. That’s what will stick with you for the rest of your life.” That’s what my boss and mentor, Phillip Olsson, told me when I was completing my Masters of Music degree at Southern Illinois University. Now, at age 71, I can look back on the twists and turns of my career and fully understand the meaning of Olsson’s remarks.
In 1964, I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education at the University of Illinois, followed by a Master’s of Music degree from Southern Illinois University in 1966. I taught music at SIU for one year before learning that I was about to be drafted by the U.S. Army. I quickly auditioned for the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C., and became a member of the band from 1967-1971. After completing my enlistment in 1971, I returned to SIU where I taught for the next four years.   In 1975, I chose a different path and became a certified financial planner. I operated a successful financial planning practice until I retired some thirty years later. It was during that career change that I drew upon what Olsson had taught me at SIU. I knew that I would be successful in any career that I chose.
   I then decided that I wanted to be a published author. I completed an MFA in creative nonfiction writing at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. My first book, “The Rita Nitz Story: A life without parole,” was published the Southern Illinois University Press in 2005, followed by “Cherry Blossoms & Barren Plains: A woman’s journey from mental illness to a prison cell,” published in 2010, and more recently, “Mnemosyne: A Love Affair with Memory,” published in 2013.
   I would be remiss if I didn’t credit my social development while at SIU. There was the student center, a habitat for a diverse population; the smell of deep pan pizza and Monday night pitchers at Quatro’s; the sporting events flanked by an assortment of artist performances; Midland Inn, the only place open after midnight; the Cypress Lounge, frequented by graduate students and faculty; and yes, the occasional trip to Carrie’s bar located between Carbondale and Murphysboro. So many memories.
   What a wonderful path I’ve traveled, a foundation where anyone could succeed. And yes, SIU was a major player in my success. “I can’t teach you everything while you’re a graduate student, but I can show you where to find the answers.”
(Information on Franklin’s writing and blog can be found at authorllfranklin.com)

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