A PERSONAL STATEMENT
You can tweet this:
What am I doing here! My grandfather, Deloy F. Harrington,
must have asked this central question many times as he cleaned the milkman's
septic tank to pay the milk bill during the Great Depression. Need it be
said that this dirty digging was not his vocation? He was a welder, and
what we might call today, a materials expert. He was also a missionary,
a scout master, and finally, a Mormon bishop. To my knowledge, neither
he, nor any of his family before him had any formal college education.
Yet, he had a sort of ingenious independence and an upward looking nobility
which still inspires me. Perhaps this was because of his ancestry. His
grandparents were among those intrepid pioneers who crossed the plains
and settled Utah's Salt Lake Valley.
My parents separated when I was seven years old. Through the childhood of my two brothers and myself, grandpa was really quite a father figure for us. We would go camping and fishing, and talk about our futures, ethics, and God. His wife, Lorna Evans was a wonderful grandmother who patiently loved and spoiled us. She had a thirst for literature such as Poe, and worldly events. She was also second generation pioneer stock. She and grandpa had high expectations of themselves, their children, and their grandchildren. Their first daughter, my mother, is called Genee.
Genee Harrington was the first in her family to attend
college. Her major, probably due to some influence by her mother, was English.
She did not finish her degree because she decided to marry her first husband,
our father, Lowell G. Love. They married young, as was the custom of their
day, and soon I was born. Their first years together must have seemed idyllic,
and I reaped the benefits of a rich and challenging upbringing. However,
these were trying times for families. They divorced in my eighth year.
Soon, I was to witness the divorce of nearly every one of my aunts and
uncles. This was not easy for my grandparents, with their Mormon beliefs,
Still, I have mostly wonderful memories of this early upbringing. Two instances, which are not my memories but rather those of my mother, may be illustrative. Once as a young boy, I walked home from a Sunday school class. Though it was not overly far, it was quite a distance for a youngster. When I arrived home my mother asked me why I was not afraid to walk so far alone. I replied that I had not been alone but that Heavenly Father had walked with me. How I wish that I could remember that! Later, as our good neighbor, old Mr. Hopkins, watched me play in the yard he told my mother that I had a very special mission to fulfill. When she related these stories to me, they had a twist of cohesiveness with things that I implicitly believed. Families had disintegrated before my eyes, yet, through the efforts of my mother and wonderful grandparents (including Rachel Braegger, my father's mother, whom I have shamelessly neglected to mention), I sensed a sort of continuity between myself and my pioneer ancestry. Now I cherish my little family; and though I have wandered widely in the world, this vector from behind has provided me with compass points, as it were. I know where my center is.
Perhaps this linkage with the past is the reason that I have always been interested in antiquity and religions. Though I have not yet visited the ancient temple centers, I have read widely about them. I was thrilled when my sister-in-law, Tina Kemarly, decided to pursue a masters degree in archeology. My first love, however, was biology. This was primarily due to the efforts of an excellent high school teacher named Mrs. Bender. In the requisite sophomore biology class she showed me how to think in a modular way. One can use faith to operate in the mode of religion, and one can use skeptical inquisitiveness to operate in the mode of science. The dexterous mind can effectively operate either of these mutually exclusive modes according to need. Someone may say that one should not wear faith like a suit or take it off according to will. One might respond that religion is not what you are, but rather it is what you do. Mrs. Bender also showed me that I could do biology better than almost anyone else and that I could get "A's" in every class without an inordinate amount of pain. Later, I struggled with my choice of vocation in archeology or biology. During that time the molecular genetics revolution was causing a great excitement. It may be of little surprise that I returned to my first love.
I have not always been the faithful lover though. When there is time for play, I am often to be found curled up with Proclus, Clement, or a book of ancient scripture. In addition to the classical writings, I also enjoy science fiction and the darker works of H. P. Lovecraft. Science fiction may have contributed to my career choice, and I have not given up the possibility of writing in the genre at some later date. My brothers, Shawn and Brian, and I sang together in church as children. We were called "the Love trio". We also play a variety of musical instruments and write music in the popular genre. My mother is an accomplished pianist and alto. She is also a lifelong swimmer. I became fascinated with high endurance sports and lettered for cross-country running in high school. I attended high school at Trevor Browne H. S. in Phoenix, Arizona. We trained in the hot desert blast with rocky trails and craggy, cactus strewn mountains before us. Time and shin splints turned me away from the high impact sports. Now, the only running I do is on my daily morning newspaper delivery. However, I have become an avid bicyclist, which I also do daily. I picked up this habit of bicycling on my mission.
Every young man in the LDS church is expected to serve a mission. This entails traveling far from home to look for converts and teach them the gospel. This is exactly what I did. I served eighteen months in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The preparation for this experience included the memorization of at least seven hours of discussion and scriptural references. Initially, the presentation of these discussions was a rote process; however, I learned in time that they had immense utility. Each paragraph became a tool in my mind. It is interesting to speculate that this may be another aspect of modular thinking, as mentioned above. Mrs. Bender, herself, used the technique to separate in her mind evolutionary concepts from her faith in religion. However, it seems that I had found a more practical application of her discipline. I was using my brain as a toolbox! Much of what we do as human beings is mechanical. The trick is to learn to do it well, in the appropriate place, and at the right time.
Missionaries go in pairs. They are encouraged to cultivate
love and companionship for one another. While this does not always happen,
one often counts former mission companions as favorite friends. We were
assigned to an area and left to our own initiative to teach the people.
We went door to door if necessary, to find "investigators". Often,
we found people who were not interested in hearing our teachings. I learned
that everyone is an individual, that people must be allowed to change in
their own time and in their own way. We also had a few converts. I will
never forget the love and appreciation that they expressed to us. Two weeks
after the end of my mission I met the woman who was to be my favorite companion
and wife of at least these seven years. Her name was Julie A. Thrower.
On the day I was released from my mission my sister-in-law had a baby son, and then I was struck by a car while standing in front of the hospital. Lauri Hansberger is the name of this sister-in-law. After being released from my mission, I went directly to the hospital see my brand new nephew, Justin, in the hospital. After making our goodbyes, my brother Brian and I left the hospital and went down to the sidewalk to wait for a bus. After we had stood there for a few minutes, we were both struck from behind by a car. Later I was told that I was rolled over the hood and landed head-first on the walk. When I came to, I discovered that an ambulance had come around the corner to take me back around the corner to the hospital. Had they never heard of a gerney? Having fallen on my head, I was feeling no pain and the ambulance attendants could have probably taken me anywhere. Still, I informed them of a slight twinge in my knee where the bumper of the car had struck me. Mistake. I was still wearing a suit that I had worn throughout my mission, but one of the attendants took out a razor and slit the pant leg from my ankle to my navel! Luckily, this was the only permanent damage done. Many of my friends and relatives see great meaning in this experience. It seems that a missionary wears a mantle of protection. Upon my release from missionary service the Lord not only wanted the mantle back but the pant leg as well!
Many missionaries go overseas. I studied German for three years in high school and if the opportunity to go abroad had presented itself I would have taken it. This was not the first time I had lived far from home. As a teenager, I relished such opportunities. I wanted to learn how to take care of myself. I joined the scouts so I could go on endless camping trips. The summer of my freshman year was spent out of state with my grandparents. While this may not seem like much, I was consciously preparing myself for much larger projects. Sophomore summer was spent at scout camps, and in my junior year I joined the Coast Guard Reserve.
That summer I went to the Coast Guard boot camp, located on Oakland Bay in California. The boot camp experience is so universal that I have nothing to add. This, however, was not the end of my Coast Guard career. After high school graduation, I went back to active duty to learn my specialty, at a boatswain's mate school in Yorktown Virginia. The rigors of this education were too much for my roommate, so he elected to serve the duration of his active duty on one of the local cutters. Ten days later he lost his life when the cutter was struck by an Algerian tanker. Later, I graduated from the school "with distinction". The irony of this tragedy was not lost on me, however, particularly since my rating required that in the event of some national need that I would serve on the deck of a similar cutter. Many coast guardsmen put their lives on the line daily in the service of others. Some aspects of our training had presented hazards, but we were "the lifesavers". I was therefore prone to chalk it up to the dangers of the occupation. Surprisingly, however, I became disenchanted with strict military protocols on my mission. Insights into the individuality of people that I had gained there were at odds with the military paradigm. I continued in the service, but when my enlistment ran out I obtained an honorable discharge.
Several days after my mission I got the job that I would have for the next seven years. It is strange now that it seemed at the time to be merely a way to pay for schooling at the local college. ATSCO Products Inc. was a greasy dump at that time, and it had been for years; however, it was under the new and vigorous leadership of Dale Eaton. Little did I know that I was joining a core group that would make the company grow seven-fold in seven years. Although Dale is former special forces in Vietnam, he does not apply any strict military regimen to his employees. He believes that everyone is inherently good. Honest workers are treated fairly. Others are treated justly. Dale's personal recommendation is a phone call away for those who are interested in his opinion of me. The written opinion of his son, my former boss may be enclosed or is available on request. At ATSCO I gained an understanding of hydraulic systems as they apply to power steering. I also got to know personally over one hundred of my fellow employees. Many of these people were street-wise minorities who would never consider going to college. Yet their individual lives had much value. Every one of them contributed something. To me ATSCO became more than a way to pay for college, more than a way to feed my budding family. It was a place where I wanted to be.
This year I received a Howard Hughes Institute Undergraduate
Summer Research Internship thanks to the training that I've received in
the laboratory of Dr. Thomas J. Smith, from Rochester. He is now an assistant
professor here at Purdue. He seems to have something of the intrepid zest
that characterized some of my relatives. We are trying to crystallize viral
immuno-complexes. My acquired knowledge of hydraulic systems has been quite
useful during some of our attempts at liquid chromatography. Life here
is not so bad.
When I graduate I plan to continue research. I am interested in neuroscience and I hope to find a niche where I can study (or attempt to study) the structure of neural receptors. I have come to love academia and will probably remain within that framework for a long time to come. There may also be some writing outside of my "genre". No one who has never tried to raise a family as an undergraduate can truly understand what a trying time that this is for us; however, we know that things will improve for us in the future. I will have more time for them as my studies become more integrated with my job. We plan that our children will learn a sport, a musical instrument, and another language. We have become pioneers of another sort. We have much territory to reclaim for those who have gone before us. Just maybe, this is the answer to the question already posed: What are we doing here?
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footnote added, January 2010: It is remarkable how this old bio keeps its freshness, and it continues as a touchstone and rubrick for everything that came afterwards. I am including some links below, and an updated email address, to bring the reader up to date. The most notable omission from this piece is my mother's second husband, Clinton France, who joined our family in Ogden during my formative teenage years. Their marriage was solemnized for time and all eternity in the LDS Mesa Arizona temple. Clint was an enormous influence on me, who taught me my love of labour, and of work, as well as many other crucial and manly values. I think that his influence on me would be obvious to anyone who knows us both well. There was an inconsistency in the reporting of names. I used maiden names for the ladies, except for my paternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Rachel Taysum, with Braegger being the name of her second husband. Here are the necessary relevant ancestral links; Evans, Harrington, Taysum.
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