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Dow: The art of making C’s

Marie Elizabeth Shade Dow
Valley Voices

A friend of mine who attended college in the days of carefree innocence, when the job market was good and when we were at peace, once told me that she tried to just make C’s. Grades that were too good meant fewer dates and, of course, below that mark would make short shrift of a fun college career. Goodness knows, this would mean an end to all the skiing and spring break beach trips — so she had to keep up those C’s.

Marie Elizabeth Shade Dow

Even in bygone times a C was a C: one thing hasn’t changed. Making a C, right on the mark, was not easy. My friend was quite smart, so there was a temptation to answer too many questions correctly. Also she never knew about the curve. Fellow students might unexpectedly bone up on a subject or totally tank an exam, so one had to calculate the risks.

One of my husband’s fraternity brothers had a saying: “It is better to make a B without studying than an A with studying.” He is the author of the infamous freshman English theme that began and abruptly ended, “I like fishing at Silver Lake because” (i.e. fell asleep in mid sentence after partying the night before).



Another fraternity brother was fortunate enough to be a member of a family who donated generously to the university. This particular university was on a 3.0 system (A = 3, B = 2, C = 1) which resulted in 0 quality points for D’s. (That would have made life even more precarious for my friend.)

Back to the fraternity brother whose family supported the university, after one semester break, my husband asked him “How did you do?” He replied, “Shut out again!” Somehow, with enough money and persuasion, a D student could remain enrolled.



However, the university had its limits and standards. After a certain number of poor semesters, the student was read the riot act, and surprisingly, some of these students buckled down and made enough A’s and B’s to counter the disgrace and bring their GPA up to a C.

Another friend of my husband (how do they all seem to be fraternity brothers?) experienced the least amount of stress of anyone I know. During spring finals week he went to the dunes with his finals schedule taped to the top of his beer cooler and told his friends to wake him up when he had an exam. This guy later became a Lutheran pastor!

Returning to the comment of my friend about the consummate C average, this actually reminded me of a cousin of mine who also went to college in the glory days of C’s. She was a beauty, very popular and very intelligent as we learned more accurately later — but we always thought she majored in sorority. She graduated, married a very smart doctor (who wasn’t aiming for C’s) and she had to face her first job interview.

Her father managed to get her in the door at the headquarters of a large corporation. Face to face with the then-called head of personnel (now Human Resources — you see, everything has changed except the C’s), the question was posed, “And what can you do?”

My cousin, impeccably dressed, college diploma in hand, broke down in tears and replied, “I can’t do anything but my husband is a resident and I need a job.” She thought the interviewer would turn her away, but he took a moment and kindly stated, “Surely you can file.” “Oh yes!” my cousin exclaimed. She said she was punctual, reliable and the best file clerk that company ever had.

Moral of the story is my husband’s famous one-liner: “One’s ability to do well in school and make money have nothing to do with each other.”


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