Sixty-six years ago, a high school principal told the son of a farmer that he was smart enough to attend college. The educator recommended getting a degree in mechanical engineering. Jack Canterbury, my grandfather, took the advice and did just that.
Born a month after the stock market crash of 1929, Paw Paw grew up on a small farm in Simsboro, about 10 minutes from Ruston. His high school was 11 miles from home, six miles on a dirt road and five on Highway 80. He grew up feeding livestock, milking cows, picking fresh fruit and playing baseball. Despite leading a simple life, he graduated first in his class and decided to give college a try. He enrolled at Tech to pursue a mechanical engineering degree.
As Paw Paw noted in his memoirs, he didn’t actually think he would graduate until he was a junior. Getting that far was a feat. Every day he had to catch the high school bus into Simsboro. From there a Tech bus would take students into Ruston. Back then Tech had Saturday classes, on which busses didn’t run. On these days Paw Paw had to hitchhike, days which was often a hassle. As my grandfather recalled, “Sometimes on a Saturdays I would get a ride to Simsboro, but I couldn’t get a ride to Ruston before my classes were half over. So I would start hitchhiking home.”
In 1950 Paw Paw became the first college graduate in the family. Next Saturday I will become a third generation Tech graduate, and the Tech family has never meant so much.
After finishing his bachelor’s degree, my grandfather went on to earn a doctorate in engineering. He returned from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to teach at Tech. He raised his family here, and three of his four children attended Tech.
I will never forget Paw Paw’s riddles and attempts to make me think critically at a young age. I attribute much of my intellectual curiosity (and dry sense of humor) to him. He started an important legacy of education in my family— something I will always be thankful for.
As I prepare to graduate and leave Ruston, a place that means home to me in so many ways, I am inspired by the Tech family and Bulldog tradition. My family is just one of many that are part of this school and its rich history. The bricks in Centennial Plaza attest to this.
These bricks give all who come to Tech’s campus a glimpse into the alumni who have created and transformed this university. In the brief three years I have been here, it has been amazing to see how much we have progressed.
Tech has moved up in ranking, now placed in the top tier of U.S. public universities. Since my arrival as a freshman Park Place apartments have been completed and the intramural center is a sight to see with its amazing new facilities. Despite major budgeting problems within the state, Tech has managed to move forward with numerous construction projects: Tech Pointe, University Hall and the F. Jay Taylor Visual Arts Building have been completed, and the new College of Business is scheduled to be ready for move-in this summer. Most recently, the Bulldogs plan to move from the Western Athletic Conference to Conference USA, something I did not expect to happen before my graduation.
I don’t mean to sound cliché, but I don’t know that I can help it. Tech helped impart the importance of education to my family, a value I hold dear. I love this place and its future is bright. Dedicated faculty, staff and students make this university what it is—I cannot wait to see what Bulldogs will do in the future.
As this chapter closes for me and many of my classmates, I hope we realize the network we have entered and the family we have gained. The bricks in Centennial Plaza represent more than the names and faces of Bulldogs who have gone into the world to make a change, they are Louisiana Tech—past, present and future.
Kelly Belton is a senior journalism and political science major from who serves as editor for The Tech Talk. Email comments to belt...@gmail.com.