Blame It On The Lone Ranger

It’s all his fault. Or maybe it’s the fault of the tiny, red Arvin radio that I got for Christmas when I was 6. It received two stations (AM) and the Lone Ranger was on one of them three nights a week from 7:00-7:30. And then I was off to sleep in Burlington, Vermont, dreaming of this masked man and his Native American partner, Tonto. Today I understand the tortured nature of this pairing. But back then, as far as I knew, they rode together saving each other’s lives, helping people, seeking  fairness and justice, never killing anyone, simply shooting guns out of the bad guys’ hands, saving the day for whoever was in danger, and then riding off into the sunset. To this day, almost 65 years later, whenever I hear the William Tell Overture (the show’s theme song) I get chills and am flooded with emotion.

Since 1970, I have been involved in efforts to change, improve, and extend access to higher education for marginalized populations. I have understood this to be a quest for social justice and human well-being as well as an economic imperative. Along the way, I have authored four books about “personal learning;” had the opportunity to found and serve as the President of two colleges; acted as Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO and Graduate Dean for Education at George Washington University; and served in both state and federal elective offices representing the State of Vermont. More recently, I have had the privilege of acting as the Senior Vice President of Academic Strategies and Development at the Kaplan Higher Education Group for the last several years. In every case, I, along with some others, have been on the “tip of the spear” of change. Sometimes the blood has been ours, but we’ve done it because we believed it was the right thing to do.

“Who was that masked man?”

Looking back, I see the unanticipated, sometimes uneven, but always persistent, hopeful, and largely cheerful path I have taken as I’ve travelled towards what I now recognize as the “post-traditional” world of learning and work. It has been invigorating, wonderful, and occasionally scary and lonely work; but that begs the question: Where did I get the passion for it?

I suppose my Scottish mother and her forbears and my father’s family that pioneered in so many ways in earlier days in Vermont share part of the responsibility…

But part of it is his fault. You can blame it on the Lone Ranger.

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