Arizona State University

I attended ASU on a regent’s scholarship. That’s simply an Arizona resident tuition waiver that is awarded to any student who graduates in a certain percentage of their high school class. My high school GPA was over 4.0 so it was an easy free education at a school with a respected computer science program.

IMG_9104bDuring my senior year, the decision on my mind was whether to pursue baseball or academics. But it was a very easy decision, one of the few times in life I made the practical choice. Baseball was an incredible challenge for which I was entirely unsuited, but I had some glimpses of success and believed I could go further. Academics was  coasting. I didn’t consider any class or subject difficult, and I couldn’t imagine a student I couldn’t bury academically. In my senior year I barely went to any classes and still graduated 3rd in a class of about 435 with a 4.3 GPA (on a 4.0 scale, elevated by AP courses).

In addition to a high GPA, I had one of the top CAT scores in the district so I imagine I could have gotten into a better school. I might choose Standford or MIT if I had it to do over. But my family had modest means and I had no interest in stressing that, or begging or maneuvering for grants or loans.

I worked my way through school, first at a batting range, then as a night janitor, and finally at a prestigious software internship. I lived at home and tuition was covered but books and supplies were costly.

I majored in Computer Systems Engineering, a CSE degree was the more ambitious computer technology degree ASU offered, essentially a combination of the core engineering degree and computer science. I graduated in four years (1987) with a high GPA.

I had no interest in higher degrees. I felt I could learn infinitely more on the job and on my own than what was taught in school. Higher degrees were for those in fields where an undergraduate degree was insufficient to get a job, or for those who thought a title was more meaningful than accomplishments, or those who thought success was about playing some game of status over substance.

The most significant part of my college education was probably the computer science portion. ASU had a professor who was known for being very involved with his students and running hard core competitive classes. Students competed for measurable results, such as a solution to a problem with the fewest bytes, or the fastest execution, constraints were imposed that required very hard work and creativity. And on top of that, very rigorous standards were enforced for organization, comments, readability, maintainability, and other good practices. I always loved the opportunity to compete in a measurable way, and I thrived in that atmosphere. I don’t know the specific stats, but I’m sure I achieved the smallest or fastest or highest scoring solution as often or more than any student he taught. And the reward in those days for being a standout software student was an internship at a local technology company. I was hired while still a junior and worked with the best and brightest students in that environment. It was a great opportunity.

The paperweight from the ASU School of Engineering has served me well. It certainly shows the state-of-the-art in technology at the time. I use my i-phone to hold down papers these days.