Getting to Know You
members respond to the question: When you were a child, what did you
want to be as a grown-up? What did you actually do as a grown-up?
Ten OLLI members wanted to be a performer (actress,
movie star, rock star, ballerina, musician, or dance)
And an equal number of members wanted to become
youngster, I thought I had a vocation to be a Roman Catholic priest. Growing
up in a large Catholic family, we had lots of close priest friends;
and I admired their stellar educational backgrounds, their undying
dedication and their overall zest for life. From age 14-19, I went
off to the seminary for my studies - but never completed the journey
to ordination. Semi-retired now, I spent 35 years in public K-12
schools, mostly (25 years) as a Superintendent of Schools in three
decided in third grade that I wanted to be a teacher and indeed I
honestly don't remember exactly what I wanted to be when I
"grew up." I probably changed my mind every week but
settled on teaching. After graduating from the University of
Pennsylvania, I taught second grade for one year, moved to
Germany (courtesy of the US Army) with my new husband, and taught
kindergarten and did some subbing. It wasn't until we moved to CU and
my children were in junior high and high school that I began my new
career, the best job anyone could ever have! I taught Adult
Basic Education at the Urbana Adult Education Center. My students
were there because they wanted to be. I taught students from ages 16
to 94 how to read, how to improve reading and the importance of
life skills. The staff was wonderful and I had amazing dedicated
co-teachers. Nina Heckman (another OLLI member) and I taught
together for many years.
wanted to be something (anything) on stage...Rockette, lounge singer,
June Taylor dancer, beat poet. I did get to act/direct/etc. in college,
and later coached high school speech teams. That was a great
joy. However, I ended up earning a living as a sales rep for IBM
and as a travel agent. And then, of course, the best job, mom.
I was a child I wanted to be an archaeologist. I got a degree in
archaeology and worked as an archaeologist for ten years. Then I came
to the United States and worked as a travel agent for ten years.
I was a teenager I wanted to make use of my musical education by
teaching blind children about music. I ended up being a social worker
with a degree in gerontology. I, therefore, have worked with
people at the other end of the life journey -- the aged. I have
never regretted my choice.
wanted to be a Louis Pasteur. I started out studying biology, but
switched to physics in college, which led me to be a physics
up, I wanted to get out of poverty. Finally, I am an old college
I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up to be a movie star. Alas, no
red carpets for me, but I have been lucky enough to
spend much of my professional life teaching and writing about stars
and their movies.
first desired occupation at 6 or 7 years old was to be a movie star.
This was likely inspired by going to the movies every week so Aunt
Matilda could build her plate collection (attendees got a free dinner
plate at Tuesday night movies). My entire working life was dedicated
to being a resource and advocate for volunteers and volunteerism at
remember being asked "What do you want to be when you grow
up?" by a reporter in the train station as my family moved from
Toronto to Cincinnati. I was 13 at the time, and my reply was that I
hoped to be an ornithologist. That never quite happened. I did major
in zoology at the University of Cincinnati. On graduation I married
and then worked as a lab technician at the U of I and then at
Harvard Medical School to help my husband through graduate school. I
then retired and raised three children. However I have pursued my
birding interests throughout my life, as a citizen scientist,
collecting bird data for the Urbana Park District and the Champaign
County Forest Preserve District, among many other related tasks. I
also was for many years a volunteer nature guide for the Urbana Park
District. It has been a good life choice for me.
I was young, I wanted to be an engineer or scientist. At age 7, I had
an opportunity to peer through a large telescope at a university
observatory and developed a love for optical instruments and
astronomy. I loved it when my father would order a few lenses to play
with. I earned BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering and worked
for 35 years as on optical engineer, mostly for small high-tech
always knew that I wanted to do something in a
field, preferably biology.I graduated from the U of I with a double
major in chemistry and biology, and my first position was
Bacteriologist at the Michigan Department of Health in East Lansing,
MI. After three years at the lab, I changed my career to mother
to be with our three children. When we moved to Champaign after ten
years, I looked for something a bit different and was fortunate to
receive a stipend from the National Science Foundation, which was
funding women with a scientific background for librarian positions at
universities. For the next 30 years, I held the position of Biology
Librarian at the University of Illinois, so I guess one could say
that my childhood ideas very happily tuned into my adult pursuits.
recall wanting to be a fireman, coast to coast truck driver, and
radio announcer. I became a radio announcer at age 15. In my adult
life I was anchor/news director in television.
I was a child, I wanted to be Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I
learned to dance, including tap, and grew up to be a journalist and
child I wanted to be a deep sea diver. I became a professor of
comparative literature and a lawyer.
Sharon Neufer Emswiler
youth I wanted to be a missionary, then an elementary school teacher,
and finally a director of Christian education in a local church. What
I actually became was an ordained United Methodist minister, serving
as pastor of several local churches, a district superintendent with
responsibility for 75 churches in the Springfield District and a
campus minister at the Wesley Foundations of two universities -- 14
years at Illinois State and 5 years at the University of Illinois.
Most of my 35 years in ministry were spent serving with my husband,
Tom, who also is a United Methodist minister and OLLI
I was 10 years old I wanted to be an advertising artist. I grew up
and did that all through college and for several years afterwards.
Then I switched to advertising sales (at the News-Gazette)
because I wanted to be out of the office more. I was in advertising
for 15 years, then went into college fundraising when I had an
epiphany that I wanted to do something more meaningful for my fellow
on, I wanted to save the world as the future Princess of Wales until
Prince Charles grew those ears! By the time I was 12, I wanted
to be a nurse. I actually became an R.N. At age 40 I went back to
school at the U of I, got two degrees, taught history and then worked
in Alumni Relations on campus for 7 years. In my retirement, I have
continued teaching etiquette classes. So I am not fully retired yet!
wanted to be a secretary because my mother was, and it seemed the
only other option was to be a teacher, like my aunt, which I
definitely didn't want to do. I eventually did become a secretary
when I graduated from college, but it was in a publishing house where
I learned copyediting and proofreading. These two jobs became my
career. I stayed a secretary for only about a year.
I was little, I toyed with the idea of growing up to be a Marvel
superhero. When I realized that was not possible, I thought I
might do something with music. I noted that I wasn't the
greatest at that, so I majored in accountancy at the U of I. For
the last 31 of my 35 years working for the University of Illinois, I
was the business manager for WILL-AM-FM-TV and the College of
I was a child I wanted to be an archaeologist (or at least my
idea of what an
was). My grown-up occupation was about as far removed from my
childhood dream as one could imagine. I became PR director for
the Country Music Association in Nashville and later a TV
writer/producer (e.g. TNN remote location producer for the
original FarmAid telecast that took place right here in
Champaign in 1985).
wanted to be an
school teacher. I was president of Future Teachers of America
and was set to go to Kent State for that degree. Then as
president of FTA, I got to monitor a class when the teacher had a
medical appointment. That experience in my senior year made me
understand that teaching was definitely not what I wanted to do. So,
much to the dismay of many people, I went to business college to get
a certificate in business as a secretary. I never regretted that
decision and have met and worked for many interesting people in that
career. In later years I went back to college and got an AA degree in
Business Application (secretarial).
I always wanted to be an elementary teacher. I have taught in many
areas of education but finally taught my "dream" grade
about 10 years ago. Second grade was everything I dreamed it would
be. Loved it!!!! Now I teach reading and I love it as
one point during my teens, I thought being an architect would be
cool. However as a "grown up," I became a business
manager; and after obtaining a master's degree in labor and
industrial relations, I worked in the human resources
kid, I sometimes laid on the sidewalk at night, gazing upon the
amazing number of twinkling pin dots of light scattered against the
backdrop of a vast darkness. I imagined what it might be like to
travel through this darkness and visit all the wonders within it. I envisioned
myself an astronaut, or at least an astronomer. Unfortunately,
school taught me that I wasn't
good at math, physics, and the like. I ended up being a college
professor (in the social sciences), a psychotherapist, and lastly, a
senior executive for a behavioral health care center. So, instead of
exploring the external universe of planets, stars, nebulae, and the
like, I wound up exploring the inner universe of the mind.
went through a series of aspirations, but for our eighth-grade
assignment, I wrote that I wanted to do the cartoon artwork for the
Yellow Pages! And indeed I was the editorial cartoonist for our
college newspaper as well as its music critic. But my professional
life was as a violist in the Detroit Symphony and then as a viola and
music history professor at a few universities. My later life career
was as a book editor and writer.
have not a clue what I wanted to be as a grown up. As an adult, I
spent 40+ years in computing: 15 years in university research
computing and 25 with HP.
wanted to be a nurse. After a stint as a social worker, I had a long
career as an administrator at the U of I.
I wanted to be a concert pianist and play in Carnegie Hall. Instead I
taught kids kicked out of Manhattan high schools for truancy and bad
behavior in a special school designated for naughty new yorkers. The
only time I was in Carnegie Hall was as an audience member. Big
dreams, bigger reality.
wanted to be a doctor. I became a teacher.
wanted to be a wife and mother but maybe also a teacher. Instead
I became an occupational therapist, accountant, entrepreneur and
freelance writer, basically all at the same time. And, yes, I also
became a wife and mother.
I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress or an anthropologist, and I
wanted to go to France. As it turned out, I was a French teacher and
a computer-based education specialist.
I was growing up I thought I would be a teacher or a nurse and didn't
decide until well into college, when I had to choose an education
curriculum. I taught for 14 years and then worked as a graphic
artist, finally doing all my work on a computer -- which I loved and
wanted to be a teacher. I was a middle school teacher for many years
child I wanted to be reporter or a scientist. I became a professor of
to be an astronaut in 7th grade. I also considered careers as a
concert pianist, a doctor, and an attorney. In these endeavors I was
not encouraged by any adults in my life, in fact discouraged on
account of my gender, with the exception of concert pianist, where I
decided that music was better as a hobby for me. In 1965, my 7th
grade teacher discouraged me from trying to be an astronaut, saying
that women were too "moody." In 1969 my high school
counselor discouraged me from studying to be a doctor, saying that
nurse or teacher careers were more appropriate for girls, despite the
fact that I had excellent grades and loved science and math. My own
father, an attorney himself, discouraged me from pursuing a law
degree and tried to get me to go to business school. He was very old
fashioned, born in 1906. I wish I had not listened to any of
them and just worked toward whatever career I wanted. But I had some
maturing to do. I worked a series of clerical jobs and then was
hired as an animal groomer for a veterinarian in Normal. Then
Bloomington-Normal Public Transit expanded their bus routes and hired
me as a city bus driver, which I did for two years. During this time
I vowed to return to Illinois State University and finish my
biological sciences education degree, which I did. I became a high
school biology teacher and taught in public schools for 28 years. I
was careful to encourage girl students in careers not traditional for
women! During this time I was also a union activist in the Illinois
Education Association/NEA, and I continue as a union activist even
wanted to be an Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM) man on a B-52. When
the B-52 was 'seen' by the bad guy's radar, the ECM person had to
figure out how to jam the radar. Instead I came to the U of I
in 1960, took Air Force ROTC, and became a computer bum. I actually
touched Illiac I.
interest: geologist. Adult career: urban planner.
I was a little girl I wanted to be a nun. (I went to a Catholic grade
school and was one of several girls named Mary in my class.) As
a grown-up I worked in clinical microbiology labs and taught
wanted to be a doctor and then became a lawyer. I was very good
in math and science in K-12. Then my first freshman semester at the U
of I caused me to run screaming from a science and math academic
focus, due to two courses with horrible instruction: chemistry taught
by blurry video and a non-English speaking T.A., and trigonometry
with an actual, for real, live, but poorly skilled teacher. I am
living proof that the quality of the educator does make a difference.
My legal career has been good to me, though, so everything turned out
hardly believe it now, but I expressed an interest in being my
mother's maid! Presumably it was because I wanted to be
helpful, a trait that eventually led me to become a librarian. I
ended my career as the Biotechnology Librarian at the University,
where I had the pleasure of helping scientists find the literature
they needed for their biological research. I was well-suited to
this role as I have a Ph.D. in Biology, myself, and thus could
"speak their language." I retired from the University
wanted to get married, have 6 children, be a stay-at-home mom, and
work with kids. I got married, had 2 kids, stayed at home with them
(did without to do so and never regretted anything), have
grandchildren I adore, and own a daycare. Life is great!
up, I wanted to become an actress. I became a speech-language
pathologist. Not even close.
wanted to be either an engineer or a rock star. I became an
engineer. I still think about the other...
wanted to be a school teacher. My parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents
and several cousins were teachers. I married a teacher! I enjoyed
many years in this profession as a fifth grade teacher, and am proud
to say both my sons and their wives are teachers.
I was a child, I wanted to be a secretary in New York City. It
sounded so glamorous and exciting. I became a lawyer in Central
Illinois. By the time I reached high school I realized that doors
were beginning to open for women. I started law school at the
Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington in 1970, one of the
first years when women in "large" numbers (roughly 23 in a
class of 220) were being admitted. I was the second female to
practice law in Effingham County, Illinois. The first was Ada Kepley
in 1881! My legal life has not necessarily been glamorous, but it has
been interesting and fulfilling. I have never regretted changing my
I wanted to be a ballerina. I became a Family Physician. But I still
like to dance!
never, ever thought about what I wanted to do as a grown-up. At 19, I
decided to become a teacher. I became a high school teacher, and then
did research on teaching at the U of I.
I was a kid in Chicago, I wanted to be an Antarctic explorer. While
in my warm bed, I read all about Scott and Byrd. The closest I came
to the South Pole was when I was flying overseas and the fellow next
to me had just finished the second of three tours there. And yes, it
was bitter cold with terrible winds. As I was growing up, I was pretty
good at math. All my family were immigrants, and the only one who had
been to college was an engineer then working for GE. So, I was fated
to be an engineer, whatever that was. But I won a scholarship to the
university of my choice, and I chose the University of Chicago
because my sister had gone there. There was no engineering there, but
one could get a degree in liberal arts without declaring a major. I
then discovered that one could get degrees in math, and so I did. I
was very lucky, for I now know that their math department then was
the best in the world. I joined the math department here, but I never
did go to the South Pole. The kid's dream was not the adult's.
I was a child, I wanted to be an archeologist, but then I found out
that you had to camp out. As an adult I have had two
careers. First I worked as a programmer for the U of I
administrative computer system, and then I became a social worker.
wanted to be a sailor, ended up a preacher.
I was 6 years old I began piano lessons in Cleveland, Ohio with Anne
Taborsky Molnar, who had studied with Artur Rubenstein's brother.
(She came to my house once a week and it cost $2.00 per lesson.) But,
by the time I was 11 years old, while practicing 2+ hours a day and
playing concertos, my fingers would lock and became painful. Before I
was to give a public recital which was to be a surprise for my
mother, the best orthopedic specialist in Cleveland told us that I
should never touch the piano again - "...don't even dust
it!" What he thought I had was "worse than arthritis."
Well, plans for Juilliard and a concert career were dashed and it
took me years to get over the fact. At Miami University I was not
allowed to major in music because I couldn't give a recital, so I
became an elementary school teacher and realized later that it would
have been very difficult to combine a concert career with having a
family. I have not played my beautiful antique baby grand piano at
all in 20 some years.
the age of 8-10 I was fascinated with mixing my mother's eau de
cologne with her face powder and so I wanted to be a chemist when
grown up. I soon gave up the idea. But I married a chemist. Later I
became more interested in art history, so I got a degree in that and
in interior design and worked as an interior designer until I
was a time when I was pretty young that I wanted to be a sheep herder
when I grew up. I had probably seen a movie and it looked like a nice
life. I grew up to be a chemical engineer, for better or worse.
wanted to be a circus or zoo veterinarian. While I did get into the
pre-vet program at Illinois, chemistry was an insurmountable obstacle
to me. So I majored in zoology, acquired a Masters in biology, and
wound up teaching biology at Parkland College. The one thing I swore
I'd never do: teach. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and like to think I
was quite good at it.
wanted to be an airline stewardess. Instead, I started working
in banking and ended up working in finance at the City of Urbana and
in charge of collecting parking tickets! You just never know
where life will lead you.
I was a child I wanted to learn every language in the world and
become a translator at the United Nations. As an adult, I first
became a medievalist, which required a smattering of languages, but
later became a dietitian - no foreign language required.
I was young, I loved school (still do) and I wanted to become a
teacher. Thus, I became a teacher. Over my working days, it took many
forms, in many locations, with all age groups and varying information
to deliver. To this day, teacher/counselor is what I do best.
always wanted to be a nurse. I read all the nursing books I could
find as a child and up until high school I was determined to be a
nurse. Then I took chemistry from a very talented teacher. I loved it
and majored in chemistry when I got to college. I did research for a
professor as an undergraduate and loved the scientific inquiry but
didn't love the nasty chemicals (I worked with a chemical that was
essentially essence of skunk!) or the huge amount of time working
alone. After a while I realized that chemistry wasn't for me. I
worked as a secretary for a number of years but finished my chemistry
degree. After I had my children I started taking courses in child
psychology. My love for scientific inquiry easily transferred to the
social sciences. I went on to obtain my Ph.D. in child psychology,
followed by a career in human development that involved teaching,
research and administration at the university level. I ended up
teaching nursing students!
child, I wanted to be a scientist - an astronomer or paleontologist
in particular. I spent most of my adult life as a geologist, working
with stratigraphy, paleontology, and education outreach.
I was little, I wanted to be a garbage man. I would pile pillows
and blankets on my bed, then sit on top, riding the "trash"
in my truck. Sadly, that dream remains unfulfilled.
wanted to be a woman journalist. I became a public school teacher. I
taught for 54 years.
child, I wanted to be a nurse and read every Sue Barton (flight,
army, hospital, children's, etc.) nurse book in the library. (How did
Sue have the time to be all those types of nurses, I wondered.)
As an adult, I became a rural letter carrier for the postal service.
However, that was the middle of my working adult life, as I bookended
my 15 year postal career with 20 years (split 15 and 5) as a working
registered nurse! Two careers!
younger person, I had the usual boyhood infatuations. My first grade
teacher's son was a fireman and that seemed pretty neat. A son of my
parent's friends was a mailman, and that looked like fun. But, first
and foremost, like many my age, I dreamed of being an astronaut - I
grew up during the "space age" and worshiped heroes like
John Glenn and Chuck Yeager (X-15 pilot). During my years in high
school, I had an interest in architecture. Then I found out it
typically took 5 years to get a degree in architecture. My interest
in math and drafting, as well as the desire to be able to work
outdoors, led me to engineering and I did, in fact, complete a B.S.
in Civil Engineering. I devoted 34 years in the engineering field as
a hydrologist and, in particular, groundwater hydrology (wells, water
supply, contamination, etc.).
child entering my teens I had two very different ideas of being grown
up. At first I wanted to be a hairdresser because they were some of
the first people I met outside of my wide family circle and that
seemed like a fun job. Then, as I entered my teens and my reading
took me further and I started taking science classes, I wanted to be
a scientist. This is an ordinary expectation now, but back in 1960 in
London, in my Jewish middle class family where no girl ever went to
college and few finished high school, it was as if I told my family
that I was going to live on the moon. I did become a scientist,
traveled, worked abroad, came to the US to get to know a brother who
left home when I was a child and then, even though I did not have it
in my long term plans, married and later taught science and took up
fine art while raising our children.
to be: a Franciscan priest working as a clinical psychologist. What
happened: married with kids working as manager of a group of computer
technicians. Go figure...oh well, it is all good!
don't remember having any ideas of what to be when I grew up as a
young child, but in 1953, when I was a sophomore in high school, I
read a Reader's
Digest article about this new thing called computer
programming. I said, "Yup, that's what I want to do." And I
spent 36 years at the University doing just that.