The high-energy physics group I worked for at Urbana was a consortium called the Midwestern Universities Research Association, or MURA. The group had chosen a site near Madison, Wisconsin as its interim home, pending final selection by the Federal government of a permanent home for the new National Accelerator Laboratory. The Wisconsin site was one of the major contenders for this selection. As I was for a variety of reasons willing to make the move, I came to Madison to look things over before making my own decision to remain with MURA. One of the principal attractions of the UW-Madison was that I hoped eventually be able to finish my schooling here.
The trip up to to look the place over was something of an adventure. Two scientists from the MURA group and I flew to Madison in a chartered light plane (a Cessna, maybe a 172). I trekked around the town and found a finished attic room in the home of a faculty widow. She was a bit strange, even outwardly so, but seemed agreeable enough. So where I would live was (I thought) a settled issue.
The others having also finished their work for the day, we headed for the airport and took off for the return to Urbana. It's a trip of about 240 miles. At about the half-way point, we began to be concerned about a line of ominous-looking thunderstorms. After some looking in first one direction, then the other, as conditions continued to worsen, there was nothing to do but find a place to make an emergency landing, which even with an experienced pilot can be a bit dicey. The mowed hay field turned out to be rather bumpy, though it had looked quite smooth from the air. We hiked to the farm house and called Champaign to have a car come fetch us.
Physically, Madison is an extremely attractive place. The campus stretches a couple miles along the south shore of the largest of the town's four lakes, and unlike central Illinois, the region is not flat as a pancake. MURA's business operations had moved from Urbana to Madison in May of 1956, and in August I moved too, an enormous task involving books, records, clothes and a large hi-fi system, most of which I shipped by motor express.
Not long after arriving I had to report for a Selective Service (military draft) pre-induction physical. With a history of depression on record, I made much of my unsuitability for military service, and to my everlasting relief, the Army's doctor agreed, classifying me 4-F. A happy side-effect was that I would not be required to take ROTC at Wisconsin. I was not on academic probation at Illinois, and would therefore be eligible for admission to the UW-Madison by the time I had established residency for tuition purposes.
At Illinois I had majored in music, mathematics and philosophy, each in turn. It seemed natural, therefore, to present myself to the philosophy department here. But I was keen on continuing my music studies too, since there was a particularly fine pianist here, Gunnar Johansen. On the strength of my audition he accepted me as one of his ten students, even though I was not a music major. The story of my music studies at Wisconsin is further along.
At about this time I also started to learn Russian, which I found relatively easy going, so I switched my major to that department. As though that weren't enough, I had a great interest in art history, one of Wisconsin's stronger programs, and took quite a number of courses in that field.
Through all this I was working more or less full-time, cutting classes whenever I could get away with it, and also managing an increasingly complicated social and domestic life (tales told elsewhere in these pages).
This sort of juggling act typified my entire academic career, actually. I never went to class unless I had to, for a quiz, an exam, or a lecture that could not be skipped. The practice sometimes got me in trouble because grades could be lowered for poor attendance.
At any rate, in 1963 I got a B.A. degree with a major in Russian. I had a minor in French, and actually lacked only a couple courses of a major in art history too. All through college I had supported myself by computing, this well before the technology explosion we're all a part of now. It paid well, of course. Interestingly I was never attracted to the academic side of computers: no courses in computer sciences, etc.
Without a break I entered grad school as soon as I got the B.A., not least because I had another job, as a teaching assistant for beginning Russian students. Without getting further degrees, I was in grad school for five years, satisfying the course requirements for a PhD in Slavic Literatures. But that was not to be, for various reasons.
All through school my interest in music remained strong. Until I was in my early 60s, I supported myself with computing, but music remained the focus of my nonwork interests. Since retirement in 1997, music has come to the fore, in the form of writing about it, going to lots of concerts and more writing about it.