By: Anastasia Dula, Class of '58 researcher and UM-Flint student
Suzanne Lewis grew up with the understanding that she would need to go to college because her father firmly believed that, married or not, woman or man, everyone needed to have some kind of occupation. Lewis did not want to work in a shop or store. Rather, she thought that she would enjoy teaching elementary school, and so she considered her options for higher education—preferably in a Catholic school to please her parents, who would be paying for it. She settled on Marquette University, but only attended school there for one year before moving back to Flint. She then attended the Flint Junior College, where her mother had gone before her. Lewis made new friends there and elected to continue on to the Flint Senior College with those friends instead of transferring elsewhere once she finished her junior college education.
Coming back to Flint felt to Lewis like coming home—she had been born and raised in Flint and was very familiar with it. She did not have any doubts about the quality of instruction at the new college, and she did not find it to be disorganized, even in the very beginning. To her, it was just like going to school anywhere—there was an instructor, there was a classroom, there was work to do, and it was her task to get through it and graduate, just like anywhere else. She did, however, notice the utilitarian nature of the buildings that were purpose-built (after the College moved out of the buildings that were once the Oak Grove Sanitarium)—she thought that they looked much like the factories that were so important to Flint.
Lewis feels that some might have looked down on the Flint College in the beginning because the idea of a satellite college was so new for the University of Michigan. On graduation day, she arrived at the stadium in Ann Arbor a bit later than many of her classmates, and she was told that someone had put a hat with Mickey Mouse ears on the Flint College’s sign. It had since been taken down, but she was angered by the insinuation that the Flint College was trivial or sub-par.
Even though she never enjoyed attending school in general, Lewis was happy with the college experience she had at Flint. She did not miss the “going away” experience she had had at the much larger campus of Marquette University, and she made lasting friendships in Flint. Her Elementary Education degree served her well throughout her career as a teacher—well enough that she did not retire until age 70, after which time, she had often found herself teaching the children of now-grown students she had had decades earlier.
I always thought you could talk to any of the faculty. They were, though, very determined to have Flint do just as well as Ann Arbor. I never had any regrets about choosing Flint.