I began teaching at age 23 in the Fall of 1975 as an adjunct instructor in History for the old DeKalb College. I was a proud recipient of a University of Georgia M.A. degree in Early Modern European history, with a thesis on the Spanish Inquisition, and I couldn’t wait to teach. Dean Pat Hill in the “A” Building of Central Campus in Clarkston hired me. A good man and a “straight arrow,” Dr. Hill seemed unfazed by my shoulder-length hair. He encouraged me, letting me know that in the near future there was to be a new facility, to be called DeKalb College North Campus, established on a tract of land somewhere in Dunwoody. Meanwhile, the College offered classes temporarily as an evening operation at Dunwoody High School, and this is where I taught. Two faculty members in Mathematics from the Central Campus, Mr. Glenn Cunningham and Mr. Orval LeJune, served as evening deans.
The Nixon recession was going on in those days, and after Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976 the economy did not improve. I was happy to be teaching two classes in the evenings and with my daytime life outside the classroom: researching and writing lectures, outlines and examinations for my courses. In the evenings I would leave my duplex apartment in Brookhaven and drive my trusty 1967 Chevy Malibu out to Dunwoody. I was in the process of becoming a teacher. I really did not feel underemployed in the productive sense, only in my penurious finances. It was encouraging to me that the College was growing. We had registrations on site in the administrative offices of the high school. The Central Campus registrar, Mr. Gerald Culberson, would come out, and we adjunct instructors helped register students.
The North Campus did not yet have a permanent site, but it got a full-time administrator with Dr. Ron Swofford, an urbane yet down-home colleague who took over the College operation at Dunwoody High. Assisting him was Ms. Joyce Moore (later known as Joyce Trivieri), who at one time drove a beautiful navy blue Corvette. In 1978, the growing satellite enterprise began to offer day classes also and established temporary administrative offices at the old Sexton Woods School building in Chamblee, off Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. And so I began to teach in the day as well as the evening, a novel experience for me.
As I became more comfortable with teaching, I took time in the days to return to one of my oldest loves, the game of tennis. I was a public parks player, taking on all comers on the courts at least five times a week. It balanced well with teaching and was a great life, intellectually and physically. From tennis I turned in 1978 to running, mainly so I would be tougher in the third set of match competition. Jim Fixx had come out with his seminal The Complete Book of Running that year, and soon I had a new identity which I have cherished ever since: I was a runner. I had “gotten my lungs” and ran my first of (to date) 27 consecutive Peachtree Road Races. I had even completed my first marathon, at Callaway Gardens, Georgia, in a time of three hours eleven minutes. I didn’t realize at the time how competitive that was for a twenty-six mile race, but I sure was having fun.
Finally, word got out to me, how I don’t remember, just where in Dunwoody the DeKalb College North Campus facility was to be located. It would be situated at the corner of Vermack and Womack Roads, right on a heavily wooded tract of land. I was so excited that in November 1978 I bought my first house on the edge of Dunwoody, for $48,000, off Winter's Chapel Road. My main goal was to be near the new campus site, which was two miles away. I resolved to train as much as possible by running near the location where the North Campus was to be built.
My first trek out to the North Campus site was a cold clear day. There was a wooden sign on the property, proclaiming it as the future site of DeKalb Community College (the name of the institution in those days) North Campus. I was thrilled with the sense of history-in-the-making. And as I circled the woodland property on the Dunwoody frontier, I noticed something that causes delight for a roadrunner: on the edges of the site were cross-country trails, leading into the heavily forested area. As I followed the paths with light, skipping joyous steps—the instinct was like a needle to the north—I could see a clearly defined network of trails running throughout the site. I was like a gopher in soft dirt! I was so happy I could almost strut sitting down! The trails were complex in their configuration, well worn (perhaps blazed by the generations of children in the neighborhood), and breathtaking in their beauty as a relatively virgin ecosystem. Like a wild stallion I ran (or so it seems in retrospect 25 years later), striding the North Campus woodland trails daily or as much as I could, listening to the birds, jumping over fallen timbers and puddles, viewing the ridges and sometimes hurdling over snakes, watching the sun rise, or, more likely, watching it set. The sleepy red glow of the sun over the woodland trails in Dunwoody in winter months is something I will never forget.
As time went on, I ran the woodland trails of the North Campus site philosophically, knowing that someday construction of academic buildings and parking lots would bring this novel off-road part of my training course to an end, and realizing this particular change would be a good thing. Eventually structural frames went up and signs pointedly prohibited trespassers. I knew the fun had gone out when one day a construction worker threw a fist at me, shouting something unintelligible that signaled my last run on my beloved woodland trails. I veered right and ran, like the devil was chasing me, out onto the shoulder of Womack Road and toward Dunwoody Village. I would never run those woodland trails again.
My disappointment was tempered because I knew good things lay ahead. I could do my part and make history by helping open the doors of a new college campus. I was among the adjunct faculty that taught at North Campus when it opened in the Fall of 1979. I taught there, and also later did my first adjunct administrative assignments in higher education, for five great years. I met one of my best friends, Professor Carl Griffin, who headed the Humanities Department at North from its inception and then for fourteen years. (As a Department Chair at Georgia Perimeter College now, I wonder, how in the world did Carl survive it so long?) Then in 1984 I left to become Registrar and Lecturer in History at Oglethorpe University, not far from the North Campus location. In 2002 I returned to work where I’d started my career and in fact where I had first been hired, at the Clarkston Campus of the multi-campus institution which had become known as Georgia Perimeter College.
Today when I go to meetings at Georgia Perimeter College Dunwoody Campus or visit my friends and colleagues there, I am continually impressed with its growth. I am fascinated with the halls that I never saw under construction, such as “E” Building and the new Learning Resources Center, which help frame an attractive quadrangle not part of the original phase of planned construction development that I knew. When I gaze over that established campus that is now twenty-five years of age, I cannot help but trance into alpha and cast my memory back. Invariably I think about a time before the beginning of the Dunwoody Campus, before any land was cleared or bricks were laid. Then that site was, to me, a network of cross-country running trails in a woodland setting that had an exciting future, all of which I truly loved; and I will always cherish that brief period in Dunwoody as one of the most carefree times of discovery in my own life.
Paul in fall of 2004…still running!