More Than 50 Years Later, Don Myers Earns His Associate's Degree
For more than 50 years, one credit has stood between Don Myers and a York College associate’s degree. During the Fall 2018 semester, Myers worked to earn that one credit through an independent study with Assistant Professor of Music Ken Osowski. He proudly collected his diploma at the December commencement exercises, at the age of 81. “Never give up on an opportunity,” he said.
Myers’ relationship with York College dates back to 1955, when he visited York Junior College (YJC) in downtown York to meet with admissions representatives and basketball coach Robert Hulton. “I was there for basketball, not the studying” admits Myers, who caught Hulton’s eye while playing on a traveling team for the YMCA. “Sports has always been my thing.”
His first semester came to an unfortunate end after a car accident. Myers was forced to quit his studies and get a job to pay for the vehicle that he had wrecked. He came back to YJC two years later.
From 1955 to 1960, Myers came to and left YJC three times. He was given a Presidential Scholarship each time, and he continued to play basketball (for three different coaches). The third time he withdrew was a bit different, however, as he was drafted by the U.S. Army.
Myers married his wife, Barb, in June 1961, then headed to Korea several months later. He served as an MP in the Demilitarized Zone, including a stint with the Criminal Investigation Division, and ended his two years of active duty with an assignment in Alabama during the Birmingham race riots of 1963.
He returned home to Barb, who had begun a career with York National Bank during his absence. “I started out posting checks in the bookkeeping department,” she said, “and later moved to the trust department.” When the bank began offering employees the opportunity to take a test to qualify for IBM programming courses, Barb scored well enough to participate. She traveled to various locations, including Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York City, for training programs. In 1989, 35 years later, she retired as the Vice President of Data Processing.
Myers went to work at the YMCA, one of “the hubs of York County in those days,” as a sports and physical instructor. “Everyone – from prominent businessmen to the poorest of the poor – were part of the Y,” Myers said. The organization had a tremendous array of programs for children, teens, and adults, and Myers managed all of them except the swimming program. “We had at least 100 basketball teams playing in leagues, and the same thing in softball,” he said.
Myers remained at the YMCA until 1969, when he was recruited for a new position – Director of Youth Work -- at St. Matthew Lutheran Church on West Market Street. “Several noteworthy members of the Y were also members of St. Matthews,” he said. “They pledged lots of money to break down barriers and help the youth of York County and come together as a community. I took the position because it allowed me to continue the work that I had begun at the Y.”
Myers founded St. Matthew’s Youth Center, which served about 1,600 York City and York County community members. He worked for the Church for a number of years before going to work in sales for Chet Patterson and Sons Sporting Goods Store.
Don and Barb Myers remained connected to York College through shared passions: athletics and music. In addition to following Spartan teams, they “were always at YCP for music events,” Barb said. Their relationship was strengthened by a visit from the vice president for advancement, who put them in touch with President Pamela Gunter-Smith. “Dr. G-S offered me the opportunity to get my degree, including picking a professor and a subject to study,” he said. “Music was an easy choice, and I chose Ken Osowski because I was always very impressed with his performances. All I can say is what a guy, what an experience.”
The two worked on a one-credit Music Independent Study on the topic of “Music in the York Community,” according to Osowski. “We met once a week and pursued a sort of ‘oral history’ of music in York. Don brought so much unique knowledge and wisdom to this project, and he also did extensive research to learn more about aspects of music in York from before his time. We discussed the music scene in York during his youth in the 1940s and 1950s, and how it has changed, up to the present day. We also discussed strategies for making music a more viable force at York College and in the York community. For one of our last sessions, we took a sort of ‘field trip” -- we drove around the city, and Don and I talked about a lot of the parks and venues that have been important music landmarks in York.
“I'm not sure how these things are always supposed to work, but I feel like I learned just as much as (if not more than) Don did during this Independent Study. We had a great time - he was an absolute joy to work with,” Osowski said.
Don and Barb have taken steps to ensure that music and athletics at York College continue to positively impact both the campus and local community through a gift that will allow for the purchase of equipment for both programs. And, through a very generous bequest in their will, they have provided an opportunity for the College to sustain the quality of its offerings in both areas.
“We are extremely thankful for opportunities given to us by other people,” said Don. “We are counting on York College’s leaders to continue providing opportunities in music and athletics for both students and the local community for years to come.”