“Key things happen in your life that trigger you… put you on your path.”
Produced by Dan Funderburg. Thanks to the Office of Multicultural Programs for organizing a story collection day during the Black Alumni Reunion.
Transcript for Life has Yin and Yang
I was fearful, anxious, and excited. The ride to Valparaiso, my dad was in his red 1968 Lincoln Continental, riding down Highway 30 with corn fields—and it took forever. And pulled into Wehrenberg Hall, and it was just… I felt like I was in Andy of Mayberry-land, it was like a time-warp, it was stuck in time. And it was strange, and it was just a sea of whiteness, and I was kind of… a little bit weird.
Key things happen in your life that trigger you, put you on your path. I learnt this at Valpo: life has yin and yang.
I told you about John Sumrall, from Valparaiso, with the Gary Orchestra, now Northwest Symphony, but it was Gary Orchestra then, and I played with them in high school. John Sumrall heard my story, I wanted to be the first… You know, I was kind of… I thought I was a bad-ass. I was really good on violin, and Itzhak Perlman was the hot thing then, and I wanted to be Itzhak, and I was really, really, really good. So I played with the orchestra in high school, and I got, I auditioned at IU Bloomington, and I got accepted, but they wanted me to be in education, and I wanted to be performance. And I was crying to Sumrall, and he said “Well, Greg, we’ll give you a scholarship.”
John Sumrall gave me an opportunity, gave me a full scholarship. He was a white guy. You know, I never knew a lot of white people close as friends: I became a friend of John Sumrall. So that was kind of the first professor I met. And then when I got here I fell off my bike freshman year, at the end of my second semester, and I ended up having to go back home. I had a doctor here – the rumor was has was racist. And I don’t believe in accepting a person’s character on somebody else’s word, so I assumed he was going to take care of me. I went there. At that time I had a rod in my back, it was called a Harrington Rod, because polio had left my spine curved, they had to straighten it, they put a rod in my back and fused it. I fell off the bike, and I was in great pain, went to see the doctor, he took x-rays, gave me an aspirin, told me I had a pulled muscle. I was in great pain, finished classes – I’m not sure how, ‘cause I couldn’t go to class, but I was able to finish the semester. Went home, doctor said—he looked at the x-rays and said, “What doctor let you do this?” He said, “You could be dead.” I’m like, “Why?” He says, he showed me the dangling rod – broken. So that was a negative experience, but then, that same summer—here we go with the yang–Betty Gehring, Philip Gehring. Well Betty was my violin instructor at the university here, and we were a very tight, our group was very tight. We had a quartet, we played all over, made a lot of money during the school year, and in the summer time with our quartet playing. And I was living in Dorie Miller Projects, right? Home, and after I was released, lo and behold, they drive up in the Projects during the middle of the drug war in Dorie Miller, and they come see me, and uplift me, and I’m like “Wow! This is amazing!” So that taught me that this whole… thing you have to take with care—life with care, you know, you just can’t just focus on one aspect of the society, you have to look at the whole picture, and I learned that love has no color—that was my lesson then.
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