Though later in life, Wayland degree changed woman's life
“When I walked across the stage and got my diploma from Dr. McClung, I remember thinking to myself, ‘My dream has come true,’” she said. “And it really had.”
The year was 1968, and Ott had just completed the academic requirements to become a teacher, even though she had been out of high school for many years and already had one daughter in college herself. Shortly after graduating, she got a job as a first-grade teacher at Thunderbird Elementary and stayed there for 18 years, retiring in 1986.
Ott said the degree – and the teaching career – changed her life and the life of her family, making it easier for her and husband Angus to put their children through college and improve their standard of living. But she admits the experience involved some sacrifice. Looking back, however, she said it was all worth it.
“Even if I’d never taught, I wouldn’t have given anything for the experience of just learning what I learned,” she said.
Natives of Georgia, the Otts moved to Plainview in 1951 for Angus to take a job as an EEG technician with Dr. Snyderman, a psychiatrist for whom he had worked at the veterans’ hospital in Augusta, Ga., where he met Vera. Though they knew nothing about the West Texas plains, they fell in love with the people and ended up staying in Plainview well past the initial few years they expected.
A stay-at-home mother, Vera loved caring for her three children – Hope, Gary and Sandra – and serving in the Parent-Teacher Association, as a Girl Scout leader and as a Sunday school teacher at College Heights Baptist Church. It was that experience that led her to pursue the college degree.
“I would often take stuff up during the week to church for my Sunday School room, and the janitor, Mr. Wilson, one day said he thought I ought to be a teacher,” Vera recalls, adding that his statement got her to thinking about education.
With Wayland close by, she knew she had a convenient option for the degree, so she began checking into school. Finding friendly, encouraging people at Wayland helped her set her dream into motion. She enrolled in 1963, taking only two classes that term but eventually going full-time. At the beginning, she felt nervous about returning to the classroom, being out of high school for many years, but she was determined to reach her goal.
“I knew I would have to study hard for the degree, and I looked at those big books and wondered if I could do it,” she recalled. “I remember Angus asking me at the beginning, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ and I said that I did.”
From that point on, he was supportive of her pursuit, even noting with a laugh, “It didn’t interfere much with my golf.” He and the children took on more responsibility at home as she split her time as homemaker and student. She was eager to learn and to share her new knowledge with her family.
“I took in every word the professors said and would talk at the dinner table all about what I learned that day,” she said. “I learned not to need much sleep those days. I was determined to still be a good mother and wife, so I just cut down on my sleep.”
When all was said and done, Vera said she felt she accomplished all her goals – taking care of her family and husband and earning the degree – without upsetting everyone’s life. She even gave birth to the couple’s fourth child, Marsha, in the summer of 1964, recovering in time to return to school in the fall and not miss any classes.
Vera encourages other women to consider returning to school for a college degree, but had some advice.
“You can do it, but you have to make sacrifices, and your family has to be supportive,” she said. “Don’t even consider it without your husband’s support. I often say his name should be on the diploma too.”
Now, as a retired teacher, Vera still loves learning, is an avid reader and an active volunteer with Angus. The couple delivers Meals on Wheels weekly and is in the Hospital Auxiliary at Covenant Hospital Plainview. They also are active in the Historical Society, the seniors at First Baptist Church and the RSVP.
All in all, it’s been fulfilling.
“What a good life I’ve had,” she said with a smile. “I had a career doing something I loved, then retired to have another career as a volunteer. My life has been so blessed.”