Senior class Valedictorian. Not me! My brother has the distinction of earning that honor for his Class of 1964. Obviously one might believe he is the smart one in the family. I was no slouch, graduating 21st (give or take a few places) in my class of 104 (again, give or take a few).
As the younger brother, I believed it would be impossible to compete with my brother, so I did not apply myself to studying as ardently as he did. Yes, he was in the National Honor Society. No, I was not. Yes, he went on to the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he graduated with a degree in Psychology and a thesis of distinction in his major. I went to the university in La Crosse intending to be an optometrist and winding up with a degree in Mass Communications.
I started smoking when I was 14. I have since quit. He never did. I was also known to have alcohol on occasion…and sometimes a bit too much. I got suspended from high school for three days but that’s another story. I was active in school plays and loved playing baseball although we failed to win many games. My brother was a star for the basketball team. I tried to have fun more than win academic honors.
My brother got married before I graduated from high school in 1968. The four year difference in our ages made it challenging to remain close. When I got to high school after graduating from Catholic elementary school (Yes, I did graduate), my brother was already in college. Sure, I did get to see him for a few weeks during the summer but he was attending classes and I was on my own most of the time. Good thing I could get into bars before I was 18.
When I headed off to La Crosse, my brother was married with a young son. He got his Juris Doctorate degree and worked for a law firm near Milwaukee before moving to Eau Claire where he practiced until his retirement. He did well for himself.
Perhaps college is where my lack of applying myself led to trying to be all things to all people. I was active in the acting group that staged college plays. I was good at memorizing lines and putting emphasis on my character portrayals. I switched my major to mass communications with an emphasis on broadcasting. I helped launch WLSU, the National Public Radio affiliate of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. I drank a lot and did go to classes occasionally. I had to take 17 credits my last semester to graduate in four years.
I earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a grade point average somewhere above 2.00. I eked out graduating. I did learn a lot about people and my chosen career of mass communications. Photography became a passion. I did radio and television production and learned darkroom procedures (which are, by and large, obsolete now). The college years were exciting and at times tumultuous with fraternity life (my brother was not a joiner) and working in radio. And, of course, spending a few weekends inebriated.
What’s the point of this diatribe? Do you consider my brother more successful than me, or that he turned out better?
Here’s more to the story: Tom and his first wife had three sons before they divorced. He since re-married and travels often in retirement. He has done well financially, or so I assume. He has three grandchildren.
I am married with three children, two of whom are married. I was a staff officer for the United States Jaycees and have met with numerous celebrities, including a private meeting with President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office. Anyone other than that is a bit less significant in my book. I was editor of Future magazine and became a chamber of commerce executive before finding my niche as a public relations, marketing, and advertising consultant. I have owned three companies and am a published author. Six grandchildren grace my existence!
The point: Even though our lives went in different directions, my brother and I both turned out to be successful offspring of Depression-era parents. We both turned out okay in my humble and somewhat biased opinion.