Becoming Me

by Norma Jean Blair Gilmore '47

What impact did Scripps have on me? I was born in a small, sheltered town in Michigan. My family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I attended my junior and senior years of high school. What a culture shock! And then I attended Scripps, for the school year 1943-44.

I had heard of Homer, The Iliad and Odyssey, Plato’s Republic, Socrates, and Darwin, but these books really didn’t mean much until we actually read them at Scripps as part of the 120 Great Books. We heard lectures and then discussed them over tea each afternoon in the commons. As students, we learned to look at occurrences, situations, literature, dates in history, and information from varying points of view. The faculty guided us. We learned to talk about ideas.

Softball was played on a field where Harvey Mudd is now located. When I hit the ball, I was in such a hurry to get to first base that I threw the bat. The catcher was a married upperclassman, her husband was in the service overseas, and she was pregnant. Two upperclassmen told me—rather, impressed upon me—that I must not throw the bat. If I accidentally hit her, I could damage the baby. I realized then that the goal is important, but the way one progresses toward the goal is extremely important. What occurs along the way affects others.

In those days, every dorm had a smoking porch. One could not smoke in her room. My senior friend, Martha Cake, smoked, so, in late winter, I asked her to teach me how. She showed me how to light up and smoke. I did. There were also two upperclassmen on the smoking porch. They said that I just didn’t look right smoking. It wasn’t me.

I never smoked again, and from that experience, I knew that I was to be “me,” not a follower of others.

Anne Morely impressed me because she had a large collection of records (maybe hundreds), and she would loan them to others. Here, I learned about sharing, with no strings attached.

A big impression was made when all students were required to attend a meeting in Balch Hall. Mrs. Shirk, acting president, told us about a freshman girl who had sneaked out to meet boys and then sneaked back in. She was sent home, no longer a Scrippsie. Mrs. Shirk’s honesty, forthrightness, and her stating facts as they were stayed with me forever. From this, I learned how to deal with people and day-to-day situations and occurrences.

WWII was a powerful force in our lives at that time. In the spring, I thought that by studying liberal arts I wasn’t doing anything to help our country, so I would not return the next year. One conversation I remember was with Dr. H. Theodric Westbrook. In essence, he told me that if I didn’t stay at Scripps I would not finish college and I wouldn’t do much with my life. I recalled that conversation in the years ahead every time I received an educational degree.

Mrs. Rich wanted me to enroll in her dance class so that my body would “free up.” I still don’t dance well.

There were other incidents and academics, both subtly and overtly that helped make me “me.” I learned academics; how to discuss; not to always follow others; know myself; proper sharing; do not hide facts or incidents, but be honest, forthright and sincere when dealing in my profession.

These are some of the important thoughts that I have about the “Scripps Experience.” They became a part of the foundation of my life. As I reminisce, I am thankful for my time at Scripps, which laid a foundation in my life for the good of others and myself. Even at age 80, the “Scripps Experience” is still influencing my life.