by Lola King, PhD
Tinker Education Services Officer
8/3/2012 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- My
educational journey began in Oklahoma, one very hot day in 1965. I was
picking cotton in order to purchase school supplies and clothing for my
children, and I looked up to the sky and said, "God, there must be
something better than this!" And there was!
At the start of the 1966 school year, I entered Langston University as a
college freshman. I paid my tuition by working as a relief dishwasher
at the Masonic Home for the Aged on Saturdays. Food was served family
style, which means there were A LOT of dishes. The job paid less than
$20 a month, but it was a start. I did not own a vehicle at the time so I
carpooled, hitchhiked or walked the 17 miles to school. Finances and
transportation were stumbling blocks, but I refused to give up. During
my first semester at Langston, I learned that my tuition would be free
if I earned a 4.0 grade point average. I quit my dishwashing job,
concentrated on my GPA and earned a 4.0. I probably would not have
completed my undergraduate degree if I had not maintained my GPA.
I began working at Tinker Air Force Base in 1969 as a production
controller in a welding shop. Being the first woman in this position, I
faced a lot of adversity. Although I scheduled the workload and ensured
the welders in eight shops had everything necessary for their work,
people who came to the site didn't want to talk to me because they
thought I didn't know anything about welding. Once they found out that I
did, that stumbling block was overcome.
I went back to school in 1973 to work on a master's degree at the
University of Central Oklahoma - Edmond. Two years later I graduated
with a master's degree in guidance and counseling. I left the welding
shop to work at the base Education Office, where I have been ever since.
Eventually, I was promoted to the base Education Services Officer
position. I mainly coordinate education endeavors between various
colleges and universities on Tinker, and ensure the guidance, tuition
and programs are provided so our Airmen can meet their personal and
professional goals. I still and always will enjoy talking with the young
Airmen, and I try to instill in them the idea that education is life
and the most reliable upward mobility tool available.
Looking back on my achievements, I have not forgotten where I came from.
I have a stalk of cotton set in a base upon which is written the word
"Motivation". This was the stumbling block that I turned into my
stepping stone, which led to my college degree, my career at Tinker and
the award of my PhD in 1983. I hope you will turn your stumbling blocks
in to stepping stones and achieve your educational goals!