I moved 180 miles from Roanoke to Richmond where I would attend—and eventually earn a degree from—Richmond Professional Institute (which became Virginia Commonwealth University the year after I graduated). The 1964 issue of The Cobblestone will give you an idea of what the school was like my freshman year. Here I am at the top of the page:
Although a couple of cousins had attended business college, I was the first in my family to go away to college. I first heard about RPI from a fellow cast member when I was in a 1961 Showtimers play. I decided to look into RPI. In 1962, it was the only place I applied, and I was accepted. All four years, I lived in Founders Hall.
In the early 60s, career options for women were limited to secretary, nurse, and teacher. I hated to type (Who knew computers would come along?), and I hated the idea of sitting at a desk all day, so a career as a secretary was out. As for being a nurse, I hated the sight of blood (although I've gotten over that now). At least teachers got the summer off. I liked English and drama, so I majored in drama education.
This turned out to be a wise choice for several reasons. Upon graduation, I'd be certified to teach English, speech, and drama. If I'd majored in English, I'd have been certified to teach just English. I could get a state teacher's scholarship, which paid about a third of my costs each year. Because drama majors had to take stagecraft, costume construction, and stage lighting, I learned basic carpentry, sewing, and enough basic electricity to rewire a lamp. Practical stuff.
Going away from home was also a good decision. In 1963, there was no Virginia Western Community College, or else I might have lived at home the first two years. While I might have attended Roanoke College or Hollins—both private colleges, either would have cost way more than the state-supported RPI. Had I lived at home while attending classes, my education would have been a lot more limited. In Richmond, I learned to live on my own—do my own laundry, budget my time, decide when and what to eat, etc. I learned to live with a lot of other folks from all over the country and who had different backgrounds and interests from mine. Besides attending a wide variety of campus events, I visited many of Richmond's tourist attractions. I particularly like the Virginia Museum and its theatre. And I also liked going horseback riding at Up-And-Away Dude Ranch out Staples Mill Road.
During summer breaks, I held jobs that would help me with my career choice. After my freshman year, I worked in the children's room of the Roanoke Public Library; the next two summers, I was a teacher's aide in Roanoke County's Project Headstart. After graduation, I had no problem getting a teaching job. Poquoson High School, then a part of York County Schools, was looking for someone to start a drama program. I coached drama, and taught one speech & drama class and four English 10 classes.
My four years at RPI cost about $5,000 for room, board, & tuition—a real bargain by today's standards.