Stories including Antoinette Chwastyk Wills '68

A Question That Changed My Life

I was a history major at Vassar, and took all the courses I could—American history, Russian and Chinese history, European history. Because I was the first generation in my family to go to college, I didn’t know what kind of career I might have beyond Vassar. I didn’t know how good a student I was. I just loved to learn.

I was in the honors history seminar senior year, and Evalyn Clark was advising me on my thesis. One day during our regular meeting she asked, “Where are you going to graduate school?”

I replied that I wasn’t going to graduate school; I was getting married.

She asked, “What difference does that make?”

That single question changed the course of my life. I did get married, and I did go to graduate school. I completed my Ph.D. with a dissertation on the French Revolution, a subject I first studied in Clark’s course at Vassar.

The academic job market was glutted by the time I finished my degree, so I never had the scholarly career I aspired to. But I never regretted going to graduate school, and I have always been grateful to Miss Clark for changing my life with her question.

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