Maybe it was not the “greatest” lesson, at least it was a “great” lesson. I learned, to my great satisfaction, that I could compete in college with those, young, smart, dedicated students when I returned to Denver University, School of Commerce. There I was, usually the oldest one in my classes, including, in most cases, the professor teaching the class. I was enrolled under the the G.I. Bill and it was necessary for me to maintain a good grade average in order to stay with the program.
One of the professors I had, who was older than I, was Wayne Shroyer who was in charge of the undergraduate program and taught beginning accounting. Mr. Shroyer was an extremely energetic, bald, teacher who might throw anything he had in his hand at a student who didn’t know the answer to the question during class discussion.
I figured early in the semester that he would playfully pick on one or two of the students daily; that he was trying to keep the tension down for the youngsters and it seemed to work in his classes. One day he picked on a shy appearing young lady who had come to class with a with a real fancy hairdo. Mr. Shroyer jumped on the hairdo until I thought the girl would cry in frustration. I met her outside in the hall after the class was over and I told her that I thought her new hairdo was very, very nice and she should not pay any attention to Mr. Shroyer’s comments about her hair. The next day she came to class sporting the same hairdo. Mr. Shroyer immediately started in kidding her again. The young lady spoke up, passionately, saying “but, Mr. Hailpern says he likes it this way!” To which Shroyer said, loudly, ”Since when does Mr. Hailpern have any say-so about styles.” I, then, feeling like white-knight errant, spoke up just as loudly, “You’re just jealous because you don’t have any hair!” He had a board eraser in his hand and let it fly at me. He missed, but not by much
After the class was over, I went up to Mr Schroyer and apologized for speaking that way about him. He answered, giving a big smile, “That was just great, Jacob, it helped me get the class started in a real happy mood. You really broke them up!”
When I walked out of the room, there was the shy young girl and four more of the students, thanking me for sticking up for one of them. So, besides keeping up with them intellectually , I had also become, in spite of my age, one of them.