Monday, May 23, 2005

Three Not-So-Glorious Degrees

Thanks to Steve for mentioning a post of mine in his reliably witty Weekly Zeitgeist at Bloggernaccle Times.

Picking up on Steve's pun on "three degrees of glory," let me tell you about three not-so-glorious degrees I learned about from one of my grandfathers, Shirrel Young. Upon finishing my Ph.D., he looked me in the eye and said, "Christian, do you know the significance of a Ph.D.?" "Well, I'm glad to be done," I replied. "Yes, it's been a long road," he said. "First, you got a B.S., and we all know what that stands for. Then came the M.S.---More of the Same. But with a Ph.D.---well, now it's just Piled Higher and Deeper!

Both of my grandfathers were smart guys that accomplished more without college degrees than I imagine I ever will with degrees. Recording here the lore I remember off the top of my head, which may need some fact-checking: a fascination with airplanes got Shirrel Young working for an aeronautical company as a very young man, and he ended up having a career as an engineer ranging from work on the P-51 Mustang (a WWII fighter) to spy cameras on the SR-71 Blackbird (1970s high-altitude spy plane---not sure if they're still in use). My other grandfather, John Cardall, started a degree in chemistry at the University of Utah, but ended up marrying and settling down in the Los Angeles area before finishing. Setting up his own chemistry lab to do experiments, he developed a chemical pool cleaning company named PoolChlor that continues successfully to this day.

I love these men and the heritage they represent (which of course is much more than I can indicate here). I'm proud of them, in case you can't tell. Aspects of their lives were exasperating (and worse) to their families, something that weighs on me as I ponder the effects of my life on those close to me. But that doesn't diminish my affection for my grandfathers. I suppose distance makes that easy for me. I hope my descendents will be able to look back upon me with similar fondness.


Hey Christian,

My grandfather (Sam Robinson) worked as an engineer on the SR-71 too. In fact, both of my grandfathers were L.A.-based Lockheed engineers back in the day. (Didn't they call that brain trust the skunk works or something?) They might have known your grandfather if he was also a Lockheed man. My paternal grandfather (J Ford Johnston) turns 90 in a few weeks. I could ask him if he knew your grandfather at the birthday party.  

Comment by Geoff J | 5/24/2005 01:18:00 PM  

Geoff, that's interesting. I too will see my grandfather in a few weeks, and I'll ask the same.  

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/25/2005 08:37:00 AM  



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