Alumnus shares hard-earned wisdom, advice

Illustration of a Class of '79 yearbook, rainbow flowing from the pages
Emma Ford / The Mossy Log

Andrew ’79 will be 65 this coming June. He has a lot to reflect about his time at Lewis & Clark 40 years ago, a time he does not remember fondly. Despite that, Andrew aspires to offer wisdom to current students who may be facing struggles similar to the ones he has faced.

Andrew will only be referred to by first name to provide some degree of anonymity since he still has surviving family members who may cause issues due to the details he disclosed. However, he felt now was the time to discuss his story with the community.

“Sixty-five is kind of a traditional boundary line between the end of work in the beginning, for lack of a better word, the last phase of life — retirement,” Andrew said. “I’ve been reflecting upon that and that I’m not pleased or happy with where my life has gone in terms of career.”

He hopes to serve as an example that “things can get better,” despite facing many lows in his life. For example, he largely became disowned by his family after coming out as gay. According to Andrew, this set him down a harmful spiral. However, prison provided him perspective that he did not gain during his education.

“I got in trouble with the law — property crime, property crime that was sufficient to be a felony,” Andrew said. “So, I was arrested. My come-to-Jesus-moment was in a jail cell, not in college.”

However, during college, Andrew was not out and only recalls knowing around half a dozen openly gay people on campus.

“I wasn’t out to myself at the time,” Andrew said. “I had some element of guilt because I was struggling with this notion that no, I’m not broken, I’m not substandard, so I can’t be one of those fags.”

Though he faced instability after college, Andrew also recalled a life full of hardship prior to LC and a particular chain of difficulty that started at the institution. At the time, LC was on a quarter system and Andrew earned less than a 2.0 GPA during two periods of time. This put him on academic probation and resulted in a permanent mark on his transcript. Andrew never dropped below that threshold again; if he did for a third time, he would have been kicked out of the college.

Originally, Andrew aspired to become a composer. Though he knew piano, he quickly realized the program was not a fit for him since he did not practice as much as the other majors. Besides that, a music professor at the time would not take Andrew on for lessons since she thought he was not serious. He graduated with a degree in Religious Studies, which he picked because the credit hours required for that major were low.

Part of why college was so difficult for Andrew was because he felt he never had people to look up to. Though he does not view his experience favorably, he does not blame the institution. 

“I came from a high school that didn’t demand very much,” Andrew said. “I came from a family background, where there was essentially an emotional non-investment in us as children. I came with baggage to college, and Lewis & Clark, their job is not to fix your baggage, it is to facilitate an education.”

Also, Andrew found trouble with the environment due to social isolation. He described himself as a “cash cow” for the college since he paid full cost to attend by using money he made working on farms and ranches doing manual labor. Coming from a disadvantaged and rural background, LC became a hard place to exist due to how different he was from other students.

“I’ve never been further than 200 miles from where I was born in my lifetime,” Andrew said. “I grew up in a small town in Oregon on a farm. I never really met many other people … I lived a very, for lack of a better word, limited experience and a very naive experience. I never matured into young adulthood with a sense of perspective.”

Andrew lived in Copeland Hall when he first arrived on campus. He recalled being called a hick or redneck, which was worsened by his self-identified social awkwardness. Unlike many of his peers, he did not smoke marijuana and had not drunk anything stronger than beer. According to Andrew, this made him feel out of place, especially since he knew a student who was growing their own marijuana plant in their room.

“I wasn’t going to be invited and I’d walk into a room and people would shut up,” Andrew said. 

“I began to experience college as a sense of social isolation which I didn’t know how to overcome.”

This sense of isolation followed post-college when he came out to his family and later ended up in prison.

After getting out of prison, Andrew’s record was expunged and he began working in hospital administration, a field he feels he thrived in. Despite his lack of self-confidence, Andrew is often viewed as commanding because of his height — he is 6’2”. According to Andrew, this enabled him to say bolder things to those around him, including to a mean coworker.

“I went in once and had a one to one chat with him and I told him point blank, you’re not going to treat me like this anymore,” Andrew said. “It floored him because no one has ever essentially done that before. I was talking to a secretary … she said, ‘You really scared him because he thought you were going to fuck him.’”

This dynamic of sexual intimidation is rooted in homophobia as Andrew was simply taking a stand against abuse, but his coworker believed the stereotype that gay men are sexually interested in all men.

Though much of his life remains difficult to discuss and he still has complex feelings, Andrew has made significant progress. Fundamentally, he asserts that young people are still facing many of the same problems. He hopes he can help.

“If I were to counsel a young person today, who was experiencing similar things, I would guide them and say, you have to deal with the hard truth and then find a pathway forward,” Andrew said.

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