Railyn Haines-Mest's Story
Office Information Systems, '94
Newspaper clipping is from Spotlight student newspaper March 23, 1987.
I came to Penn College in an odd spot. I had just completed my freshman year at a state-run university in Ohio. It did not go well. My grades were decent enough, but being young and full of bravado, and desiring to get as far away as possible from my tiny one-stop-sign hometown clouded my judgment. A learning disability that went undiagnosed until my senior year of high school left me with an uneven grade transcript, and the school in Ohio was willing to look past that (where other schools were not), so I jumped on it. I found myself in an unfamiliar city that had tons of issues. Gunshots and arson fires frequently kept me up all night. When they told me they were discontinuing my major at the end of the academic year, it was a no-brainer to pack up and go home. But that was just the beginning of my problems.
"That's when I met Dr. Alex Bailey, and I didn't know it at the time, but he shaped a lot of the person I became."
Their school year out there ran much later than anyone else. I wasn't done until mid-June and, by then, most of the schools I applied to were full. Doors were closed everywhere I looked. One local university told me they would consider admitting me late, but they didn't consider the courses I had taken "up to their academic standards" and refused to transfer any credits. Furthermore, they wouldn't admit me until I "took some classes at HACC or WACC, and proved I was serious." I was unhappy about that, but I reluctantly enrolled in Penn College's Fall 1992 term.
Penn College didn't offer the program of study I started in Ohio, but I had decided that perhaps I should be looking at something else. I signed up for some basic classes, and was delighted to find that many of my credits were able to be transferred. But something happened. As I was going through the testing and registration processes, I liked more and more of what I saw. I even told my parents that I may consider sticking around, and after about a month, I chose a program of study, then changed it and, at the end of the semester, changed it again. It was simply a process of finding what I enjoyed and was good at, and then tweaking it a few times to find a program that fit, and what was so great about the way that classes were laid out and designed was that it wasn't a waste of time for me to have taken other classes. In most cases, I could count a class I took in a different course of study toward the new one. And even when I couldn't, I never felt like the class was a complete waste of time.
When I made the final change to my course of study in January of 1993, I was required to meet with the head of the program as I would have to take some classes out of order. That's when I met Dr. Alex Bailey, and I didn't know it at the time, but he shaped a lot of the person I became. He told me that he generally didn't let people into his program late, because it was hard to keep up, but it only came down to one class, and he said he'd admit me to the level two class as long as I promised to work hard and try my best. He promised he'd work with me to get me caught up, but it didn't take much. I picked the class up quickly (thanks largely to his fantastic teaching) and was keeping up in no time. When it came time for a new group of people to come in to take the level one class, I figured I could just skip it since I got good grades in the level two class, but he said no. He insisted I take it anyway, and I'm glad he did. I got to be his assistant, and help people who were struggling to keep up. And even though I had taken the level two class, the level one class still had opportunities to learn things I didn't learn prior. Once again, Dr. Bailey knew best.
We had a desktop publishing class that ran from 7 - 10 p.m. every Wednesday night. Everyone hated that time, but it was a mandatory class. I commuted 45 minutes each way, and that made it a tough one for me. Dr. Bailey knew we didn't like it, so he tried his hardest to make the class worthwhile. He'd give an assignment, and turn it into a contest, with the winner's design used in a flyer or newsletter for various clubs and organizations he belonged to (I had two picked: one for a Corvette Club and one for a friend of his that sold sheds). He would frequently order pizza or take us out for coffee and donuts afterward. Once or twice my then-boyfriend (now husband) tagged along because we'd have to do something in the dead time before that class started that would make it pointless for him to drive home, and Dr. Bailey would put him to work doing something, but he'd get the reward of pizza or donuts like the rest of the class.
When the spring of 1994 came, those of us who were graduating showed up for our last class to find a note on the computerized overhead projector that said something to the effect of "You're as ready as you're going to be. You're as ready as I can make you. Please join me for breakfast at Perkins. ~Alex Bailey." And it hit me. It wasn't signed "Dr. Bailey." We were no longer his students. I saw him for breakfast that morning. He waved at me with his big smile as I walked across the stage at the Arts Center, and then shook his head when he saw I was carrying a cap-and-gown-wearing Beavis and Butt-head that was a gift from my husband. And when I turned them around at him because they were mooning, he laughed hard. That was the last time I saw him.
He was invited to my wedding, but he sent a gift and a note that he had another commitment. At some point during the years, I saw he had retired in one of the College's magazines. I've thought about him often, and was saddened to hear of his passing in an accident last year. I don't think I've ever met anyone else who prepared me more for "the real world" than he did. He was strict about attendance and punctuality. He believed in having fun, but not at the expense of learning. He rewarded hard work. He would help if you needed it, but not give you a free ride, and expect you to be serious about catching up. There's not a day that goes by that I don't use something that he taught me.
I haven't seen anyone in my program group in a very long time. Sometimes I wonder what happened to them. Most were women, so they would likely be hard to track down as names likely changed. Am I remembering correctly that we were the first group to graduate at the Arts Center? I do remember that our service was interesting because the power kept going out, and people kept going outside to smoke. Then, by the time everyone got back inside and seated, the power would go out again. It was extremely hot in there because the A/C couldn't stay on long enough. I remember an administrator (but can't remember which one) saying that the next time the power went out, those who went outside to smoke would not be readmitted. Then the power came back on and stayed on.
I wandered in to Penn College expecting to be there a semester at the most. What I discovered was that the traditional college environment just didn't work for me, and it was possible to get a top-quality education in a more technical oriented school… something that I never thought would be possible