Russell Andrews ‘68
Dartmouth College Oral History Program
Dartmouth Vietnam Project
May 27, 2020
Transcribed by Karen Navarro
JANOWSKI: Hello, my name is Elizabeth Janowski (’21) and I’m here this morning speaking with Mr. Russell Andrews of the Class of 1968 as part of the Dartmouth Vietnam Project, an oral history project that aims to record the testimony from Dartmouth alumni and members of the Upper Valley community who lived through the Vietnam War era. The date is May 27th, 2020, and it is currently 9:36 a.m. Eastern Time. I’m calling from my home in Brookfield, Wisconsin, in light of Dartmouth’s remote format this spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And Mr. Andrews is at his home in Los Gatos, California. Mr. Andrews, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
ANDREWS: Yeah, it’s a pleasure.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, all right. So let’s just hop right into this, then. I’m going to start with some pretty quick and easy questions. So first, when and where were you born?
ANDREWS: I was born April 6th, 1947, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
JANOWSKI: All right. So, what was your father’s name?
ANDREWS: Harold Andrews.
JANOWSKI: And what did he do for a living?
ANDREWS: He was a civil engineer. He worked with Alcoa Aluminum actually his whole career.
JANOWSKI: And your mother’s name?
ANDREWS: Was, well, maiden name was Barbara McCright, Barbara McCright Andrews. She was trained as a chemist and worked briefly as a chemist until she got—and I’m not sure which company that was for in the Pittsburgh area. But then, once she got married, she basically became a homemaker, had three kids.
JANOWSKI: So, it sounds like both of your parents were college educated, then. Is that correct?
JANOWSKI: Where did your parents go to college?
ANDREWS: My father went to Northwestern [University, Evanston, IL] and my mother went to Miami University in [Oxford,] Ohio.
JANOWSKI: And then you mentioned you have two other siblings?
ANDREWS: Yes, I have older and younger sisters.
JANOWSKI: And what were their names?
ANDREWS: Older one’s Frances and the younger one is Lynn.
JANOWSKI: So then, did you grow up in Pittsburgh?
ANDREWS: Well, actually, we lived in New Kensington. It’s a small town about 25 miles from Pittsburgh. It’s where Alcoa’s headquarters were at the time. Grew up there until age 10, and then we moved away.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, what was it like growing up in New Kensington and how do you describe the political or religious makeup of your neighborhood?
ANDREWS: Gee, I don’t remember much about that. This was in the ‘50s basically. You know, we moved to California in ’57, so, you know, it was peacetime after the Korean War, and I think my parents were pretty happy with [Dwight D.] Eisenhower as President. And they were, both my parents were Protestant. But yeah, we went to church. Well, that’s a whole topic to get into, religion. But, it wasn’t a major part of my growing up at that time.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. I guess also I’m kind of curious about your experience in elementary school as a kid then. Would you say that I guess the political and religious values of your classmates and your classmates’ parents was kind of along the same ones?
ANDREWS: See, you know, yeah, I guess so. Again, that particular time in the US was not like now. There didn’t seem to be the divisions, and we weren’t in the South where there were racial issues. And it was kind of, yeah, you went to school and you played and, you know, it was a much more, I think there’s a huge difference seeing our grandkids in particular now at that age in elementary school, but it’s a totally different environment, much more structured. And, you know, we’d go out, ride our bikes or play baseball or something and fool around outside. We were in kind of a semi—I guess it wasn’t countryside, but we could kind of get out in the forests around and we could go out and play. But, you know, at age five you just kind of roamed around. I don’t see that happening as much today certainly in similar environments. But, so, I don’t think political and religious aspects were a big thing. We were just kind of out having fun.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. And also, we’ll definitely go a lot more into this later, but you had a pretty illustrious career it looks like in neurosurgery and working for NASA. And at this time in your early childhood, were any of those passions starting to emerge in school?
ANDREWS: Certainly not in elementary school. I think, what my parents remembered is there were some of us who, we basically were bored in second or third grade, and you’d get the report cards always had marks about “basically this kid’s a troublemaker, okay academically.” But, you know, we were just bored. I think, again, seeing what my grandkids are going through, the schools are—there’s a lot more interesting stuff going on in there, and so, I think I would have been happier in school today than I was then at that age.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. All right, so you mentioned when you were 10 years old you moved?
ANDREWS: Right. My father got transferred to San Francisco. We lived in San Mateo, which is a suburban city probably what, 20 miles south of San Francisco, and yeah, lived there for five years. That was quite a different experience than I had before then.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, how so? Could you elaborate on that a bit in terms of how it was a different experience?
ANDREWS: Well, a lot more—this is a fairly unusual area of the country, even then as just being kind of open minded, a little more cosmopolitan than certainly than western Pennsylvania. But, yeah, I mean, I just had friends who were a little more diverse, and certainly in, I was there for over the last, what, couple years of elementary school, which was a local school I biked to. And then, the junior high school, I was bused there, but there was, the classes were arranged in I guess by academic ability, and that was one of the brightest groups of, what was it, seventh and eighth grade at junior high school. I mean, that class that I was in—see, I left a year later after the first year of high school, but that class had people in there going to places like Harvard—I don’t think they went to Dartmouth—Harvard and Stanford and UC [University of California] Berkeley and UCLA, a really sharp group of people. And so, school was much more stimulating at that point, and it had something to do with the—you know, I think if I’d stayed in New Kensington I would have been less stimulated intellectually than I certainly was in California.
JANOWSKI: I don’t know if we addressed this, but what prompted the move to San Francisco?
ANDREWS: Oh, my father’s company, I think they were just expanding, and I’m not sure what exactly he was doing there. He was a civil engineer, and his main area of expertise was marine applications of aluminum for ships, and he designed the first aluminum masts for sailboats and stuff like that. Yeah, well, that kind of leads into the next move, which five years later we actually moved back to Pennsylvania briefly for the, at that time then the head office’s kind of management was in downtown Pittsburgh, and so we moved back to that area in, let’s see, that was ’62, the fall of ’62.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Oh, no, go ahead.
ANDREWS: Well, I was saying that was interesting that we were there for all of about three to four months, like we got there end of August or early September. I started school. In December and we were off to Australia. At that time, Alcoa had—they were mining bauxite in western Australia and shipping it over to a city near—called Julong, near Melbourne where we lived, and they did the smelt and things there. But their administrative offices were in Melbourne, and so we packed up and moved to Melbourne.
And I later learned that they wanted my father to go there directly from San Francisco, but my mother was a little hesitant about traveling overseas. She wasn’t the most adventuresome person, and her relatives were in western Pennsylvania, so the option of going to Pittsburgh was, I guess she kind of overruled my dad, and then I guess they made the offer so good that he told her, “Sorry, we’re going to Melbourne.” And she I think probably had the happiest time of her life the five years they were down there, or certainly had a very good time there. And it was easier to actually move from San Francisco to Melbourne than San Francisco to Pittsburgh, because the countryside is very similar and the lifestyle. It was, at least for me it was a fairly easy move, although the school systems were very different, and, you know, I just learned a lot.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. No, I definitely want to go into that more. I think just to backtrack a bit, though, I am interested in sort of like the transition first from Pittsburgh to San Francisco, too, especially since, I mean, you mentioned like they are very different areas in terms of one being more cosmopolitan than the other, and I know that San Francisco also I think during the civil rights movement, it had a pretty large movement going on in that city. I don’t know if you noticed any of that starting to emerge while you lived there?
ANDREWS: No, we left in ’62, so that was really before much of anything started. You know, the Vietnam War really hadn’t—it hadn’t begun for a couple more years. No, I wouldn’t say there was any political aspects to it. It was more just kind of a view on life, and I guess that academically it was—partly, I think just being a little further on educationally, but I think the quality of the school systems and all at that time was, it was a good move for me that way.
JANOWSKI: Sure. Yeah, so then, 1962, you moved back to Pennsylvania. What grade were you in at that time then?
ANDREWS: Oh, I was after the first year of high school. I went one year of high school in California, and then left and started high school that fall. We lived in Monroeville, which was a suburb of south Pittsburgh, and as I said, I went there until, basically until Christmastime and we moved, and then moved to Melbourne, which was kind of sad for my older sister. She had been accepted to University of California at Santa Barbara. And I would say one of the things that I think has stuck in my mind, I think my parents were pretty typical for that generation, but, you know, my mother I think would have liked to have kept a career for herself, but she felt obligated, and I think my father certainly went along with that, you know, to basically be a homemaker. But I think she could have used her mind a little more than she did.
And that kind of happened with my sister, too. She was all set to go to college, and then in the summer, they said, “Oh, we’re moving to the East Coast. We don’t want you that far away. You’d better find a college on the East Coast.” And this was like a month or two before school starts. And so, she ended up going to the University of Connecticut. And then, by the time she had been there for three or four months, we moved to Australia, and it was a moot point. It actually would have been closer to be in California. I mean, I never really forgave my parents for that. I thought it was very sad for her to have to uproot like that, but that was, you know, they were just trying to be good parents. But, things have changed a bit, and I tried to learn from those things as far as, you know, we have two daughters, and they’ve had a lot more independence than my two sisters had.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. I’m sure that yeah, the move from Pennsylvania to Australia, that sounds very jarring. [Both talk at the same time]
ANDREWS: I kind of enjoyed… I guess one thing I noticed, my father, he actually retired fairly early. I think he was 62. And the reason—well, one reason was he certainly enjoyed the engineering aspect, and he wasn’t particularly—he didn’t particularly enjoy being a manager of large groups of people, and that’s kind of where he got to in Alcoa. And, you know, they were economically okay. They weren’t wealthy, but they—and they had good pensions, and so he retired at 62. Mainly, and I think what I learned from him is I wanted to make sure I had a career where I wouldn’t be bored or hit kind of a dead end. And certainly, you know, surgery’s one of a handful of fields I could have just been going into where that’s certainly not the case, certainly stimulating all along. There’s always new challenges.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. So then, just to get the timeline straight here, what years were you in Australia for?
ANDREWS: Well, I was there basically ’63 and the first part of ’64. I started Dartmouth in the fall of ’64. So I was there about a year-and-a-half. And my parents were there for about five years total.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. That’s interesting. I think in the past with these interviews, I’ve asked in high school if any sort of attitudes towards American intervention in the Vietnam War started emerging for you? But I think the dimension of being in Australia is also interesting in terms of just even staying informed about that happening. I don’t know if you could comment on that?
ANDREWS: Yeah, again, the Vietnam War really didn’t start until ’64, I don’t believe. It was not a… I mean, I remember [John F.] Kennedy’s assassination and things like that were—hit us like it would have hit me if I’d been in the US, but certainly Vietnam and civil rights, that sort of thing, had really not, certainly weren’t a big deal of my year-and-a-half there. I was pretty—well, it was just a fun place to be, and I worked very hard. I got into tennis and music and sailing, and worked—they had an interesting academic system there is you basically get a degree at the end of each year the last several years. The junior year, if you finish and pass these pretty extensive exams, you get what’s called a leaving certificate, and then the next year is the matriculation certificate, which is like senior year in high school except the university there was only three years. And so, if you finished matriculation year, you were considerably ahead of most people in the US academically. I mean, I went for less than three years of high school and I ended up after taking these placement tests at Dartmouth that they gave you the first week or whatever, and then finishing in three years at Dartmouth. So I think the system in Australia was a pretty solid academic system. So, I remember... I was a pretty efficient guy. I left them during that period and had a great time, too.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, sounds like it. So let’s start talking about Dartmouth a bit. What drew you to apply there in the first place?
ANDREWS: Well, it was interesting. See, I was in Australia, and in different seasons. So, I ended up, when you go there, or if you’re coming from the US—I started sophomore year in the US, and I had to decide—or they had to determine, you know, would you go up a half a year or would you go back a half a year? And I ended up going up a half a year and did this what’s basically the kind of like junior year of high school. Did okay, and then started the matriculation year, and like I said, it was early ’64, but I decided, “What the heck, why don’t I apply to colleges in the US?” So I pretty much determined I’d go back to the US for college. And that’s just fortunate that I was awarded—I think it was the first year they did that—Alcoa had a few scholarships for employees’ kids, and I got one that basically paid for the majority of my Dartmouth experience or wherever I chose to go.
So I applied to a number of places. Interesting, our next door neighbor in San Mateo was, he’d gone to Stanford, he was on their football team, he was actually on their admissions committee, and a real rah-rah Stanford guy. He always had a white car with a red interior. The house was white with a red door. Great guy. And he and my dad were good friends and we knew his kids and my sisters and I were good friends. So that “gee, I’ve got this, you know, [inaudible] obviously at Stanford. I’ve got this guy on the admissions committee. I mean, you’ll have a good chance of getting in there. And I get this application, in big red letters at the top it said, “You must have a high school diploma to apply to Stanford.” So, Stanford was out because like I said, I didn’t even go three full years altogether and had no high school diploma.
But the two places that it kind of came down to were, that I was interested in: one, the only place that interviewed me over there was MIT [(Massachusetts Institute of Technology]. And I actually got an early admission there. And my dad – my parents I’m sure were happy, civil engineer, and they assumed I’d go there. And I guess it was partly wanting to define yourself. I don’t think I was trying to be rebellious, but Dartmouth had the most interesting application. They had, yeah, it was a number of essay questions. And I was interested in math at the time, and I think it had probably the best Math Department under [John G.] Kemeny in the country at that time. And so, those were kind of my justifications for choosing Dartmouth. That was really between Dartmouth and MIT. And so, that’s—it was mostly the power of their application and the quality of the Math Department at that time, although I found out that I didn’t think I wanted to spend a career in math eventually while I was at Dartmouth, but those were the reasons for choosing it.
JANOWSKI: So then, you started Dartmouth in the fall of 1964?
JANOWSKI: Yeah. So, you mentioned that you were interested in the Math Department at Dartmouth, so I assume that’s what you majored in then, or at least what you intended to major in when you started?
ANDREWS: Yeah, correct. And what I think is, a lot of people when you go to college at a place like Dartmouth, you know, you can be kind of a hotshot in high school, but you have a different class for most people unless you went to a really hotshot high school when you go to a place like Dartmouth. And so, about the first year I kind of knuckled down and figured hey, I’d better do pretty well academically. And it was a little difficult having my parents, you know, around the world, although I think I was certainly ready to jump out of the nest, but that’s a little different than having parents 10,000 miles away as opposed to, you know, 500 miles away.
But I got into music, and it was actually in Australia they have an amateur camp they select people for, and mostly high school people, and I was just a natural. It was just before I came to Dartmouth, and got interested in the band and orchestra, played that. And the other thing that I really got into was skiing. I had never skied, and I remember my first winter term, basically what I did was arrange classes so I’d finish by 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning and at least three or four days a week, you know, they’d bus you up to the Skiway, and I’d ski until 4:00 or 5:00 and come back, have dinner, and I’d go to sleep, then get up at night and study for three or four hours. And I kind of had that routine down, just because I was so—I just loved skiing. I’d never done it, so I remember I had a couple buddies who were from New Hampshire, and they were skiing circles around me, but you try, that’s how you learn.
And, but I think the other thing that was interesting, my freshman year roommate, you know, you had no control over it, it happened to be a guy from New Jersey who was interesting. His first name’s Fred. But, he was the first chair clarinetist from New Jersey, and I played woodwinds, but Fred was better than I was. That was kind of, well, not very humbling. I mean, I’ve certainly been around people who were better than I was musically. I think I realized I didn’t have the talents to do that. And similarly, he was a better tennis player than I was, too. But, you know, he went on and I think he got a law degree, and I think he’s probably on Wall Street. And we haven’t really kept in touch, but very different paths after that.
But, you know, I think so Dartmouth was, the first year for me was 1) the skiing and 2) just being fairly diligent academically, although I think I—and I think I was [inaudible]. I had close to straight A’s that first year. And I think one thing that was interesting about Dartmouth was, you know, what I call probably the brightest just as far as basic intellectual capabilities, they were not the people in the top 10 or 20 in the class of, what was it, 800 or something. The guys who got the high grades weren’t doing what I was doing. They were working pretty hard. And the bright guys were playing poker and bridge and getting drunk every night, yeah, just BS’ing. And, so I think I, well, I had a very—my Dartmouth experience changed a lot after the first year.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Can you elaborate a bit on that in terms of how it changed after the first year?
ANDREWS: Well, at that time, and I’m not sure it’s still the case, you rushed fraternities, or, well, they just got sororities, too, now, in the sophomore year. And so I spent, well, actually that first summer my father’s company would fly—you know, I guess they had a few people whose kids were in college in the US and they were in Australia—they’d fly us back to the [inaudible], which was winter there. And so, I spent the summer in Australia, and then came back. And I happened to come back in time to do a—I wasn’t planning on fraternities, I guess, at that time. I didn’t see that as something I—you know, it just didn’t seem like where I was headed with fraternity life.
But I happened to get back early and they had this like it was four days of rush or whatever, and so I went around, and I ended up joining Phi Kappa Psi then, and I think you—I thought that you listened to the interview with Dave [David M.] Stearns [‘68], who was also in Phi Psi, what’s now Panarchy, and so I won’t go into detail about some of the things there that we had in common. He wasn’t somebody I knew real well. I did see that somebody else was going through this interview process. But, so I guess I decided that I’d done pretty well academically and didn’t have to prove myself, so let’s see what I guess more typical Dartmouth life [was] at that time, which was, it really was pretty much the Animal House existence. You know, we were a block from Moe’s, which was the third largest beer distributor in the country. Oh yeah, I think everybody, if you want to know what Dartmouth was like back then, you just watch that movie, Animal House. Yeah, it was [inaudible]. A lot to be said for that.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, would you say that was a pretty accurate—that movie, Animal House, was a pretty accurate description, then, of your experience in Phi Kappa Psi?
ANDREWS: Well, I mean, not exactly personally, but I think that whole kind of inebriated existence. A lot of people worked pretty hard during the week. I’d say I think the biggest drawback for me personally was it not being co-ed. I think I [inaudible] the schools in Australia were that way, too. And so, your social life was a little distorted compared to the way things are now, and I think that’s a much healthier environment. But I’d say, you know, there were quite a few schools that were not co‑ed at that time, and I think that made some difference to me. But I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, but I guess I found it hard to make close relations with women when you’re going on these weekend things that were, you know, like this is pretty artificial. I mean, the people that I’ve gotten, women I’ve gotten close to, it’s been pretty much, you know, people you worked with or, you know, had something going on with and not like dating game sort of thing. So I think they have a much healthier environment now.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Let’s see here. I know you mentioned that you were fraternity brothers with Duncan [B.] Sleigh, Class of 1967?
JANOWSKI: Yeah, who I understand was later killed in combat in 1968. I guess, could paint a picture of what he was like? How did you two meet?
ANDREWS: Well, we were fraternity brothers and, you know, had a lot of beers together, and I was, yeah, Duncan and I talked, and he was telling me how he spent at least one and maybe more than one of the summers in barrios outside of Mexico City. Duncan was obviously a bright guy, he was the valedictorian at Marblehead High [School, Marblehead, MA]. But, pretty much a pacifist, I think. But [inaudible] talking, I guess this would have been in ’67. In fact, I was in a motorcycle accident early—this was at the end of the first year my sophomore year. And so, I remember while I was in—I spent most of the summer in the hospital and multiple operations [inaudible]. But I guess we knew each other, and he’d kind of tell me a bit about himself. And he was just saying how he didn’t feel he was really manly enough and he had to kind of prove himself and “I’m gonna join the Marines to kind of make a man out of me.” But, it’s interesting philosophically what happened to him. You know, here’s a guy who could have made a real contribution to society and ended up… Well, the whole Vietnam War was, you know, I think you’ve had plenty of people who have done these interviews and given you—maybe you’ve gotten both sides of it probably, but I think you find very few people these days who think that was a worthwhile experience for the country.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. I think that’s kind of a good lead-in, then, to I guess, during your time at Dartmouth, did you notice any I guess activism against the Vietnam War? Or in general, what were the campus’s sentiments towards the Vietnam War as it escalated?
ANDREWS: I think—yeah, I left in ’67, so it was more, at least for me, there’s something going on, and if you were in, you know, Berkeley or Cambridge, it’d be a big deal, but we’re kind of in this isolated country club out here. And it was in the back of my mind, it bothered me. I was kind of in a unique situation in that because of this motorcycle accident I had pins from fixing a leg fracture. I was a 4-F, so I wasn’t drafted. And I think I felt… I mean, I had mixed feelings about the war. I’m not sure I would have—and I [inaudible] I think Dave Stearns said that Jamie Newton was our commencement—the guy in ’68 who gave that commencement speech, and I knew him a little bit as a—I think we were in the same… One year he was in the same dorm, I think, the first year. And so I knew a bit about him, and I guess he ended up going to Canada. I’m not sure. I didn’t really entertain that, but I guess at the back of my mind I was thinking, gee, if I wasn’t non-draftable, what would I do? And I wasn’t real sure, because I certainly didn’t believe in the war, and I think I found later on even more reasons as the war continued and I learned more about it years later, even more that this was a real mistake. But I think it did affect my actions of what I did after Dartmouth. I figured I had skipped, I’d earned two years to try to—I skipped a year of high school and a year of college basically. And I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do after college.
I made a kind of a fortunate decision after my freshman year. I decided I wasn’t bright enough to be a mathematician. It’s kind of like the sports world. If you’re not one of the top, you know, really sharp people, you end up doing things that aren’t particularly inspiring for the rest of your life, because you have to be really good at it. So, I said, Well, I’ll take pre-med courses just in case I might want to go into medicine. And I think most people thought I was kind of crazy to go through all those courses, but it turned out it worked out very well for me. And I had majored in English literature. I liked reading and writing, and so that was one thing that I could do and still finish in three years. I spent one summer at Stanford; that’s my freshman year, or was it sophomore?—one of the years, or a part of the summer to get a couple of courses and allow me to finish in three years.
And, so I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I didn’t even apply to med school. And so I was thinking, Well, maybe I’ll do the Peace Corps, and then Micronesia was a US trust territory. I guess I was a little hesitant about going up and I felt like the Peace Corps might be proselytizing people in other countries so they’d be like the US, and at least that was kind of a US protectorate. So, I mean, that was one of the best decisions I ever made, and then my parents were saying, “Well, Jesus,” you know, career wise, “do you really want to do this?” I mean, they weren’t against it, but they were kind of questioning. But, it kind of gave me some direction in life, which was what I needed.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. And I definitely want to go into that a bit more, too. But first I kind of wanted to backtrack. And I know that the ’60s were not only a tumultuous time in the country, but there were, I would say a couple different big things happening on campus, too, in terms of… I talked with some other narrators before who described the college’s attempt to start experimenting with co-education during the ‘60s. Is this something that you noticed at all during your time there?
ANDREWS: I think that was after… Well, I listened to Peter [A.] Bien’s interview, which was very interesting. One of the courses I remember was his course on [Nikos] Kazantzakis, and I found it very educational. Most of those in the ROTC, and it sounds like it happened ’69, ’70… Really at ’67, ’64 to ’67, I don’t recall… I mean, we knew about the Vietnam War, but between academics and fraternity life, and it really didn’t seem to affect much of anything. I mean, football’s a big thing in the fall, and I don’t recall… The anti-war activists was something we kind of read about or heard about going on at some of the major centers, like I said, like Berkeley or Cambridge or something. But, it didn’t seem like it had really come to Dartmouth yet. I think that it certainly did—I mean, I learned things from Peter Bien’s interview that I didn’t have any clue about, I’d never heard about. I was out of the country, and when I came back, it wasn’t like I came back to Hanover, but I was far away and I got up there a few times. But, that actually was quite a few years later in the early to mid ‘70s before I got back up to Hanover. So, I really can’t comment on it. It didn’t seem to be a major effect. I mean, people were still more into football, and you know, the Dartmouth life didn’t seem to have changed much by ’67. I think it did change very rapidly the next couple of years.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Let’s see here. And in terms of the civil rights movement, too, did you notice anything I guess correlating to that on Dartmouth’s campus?
ANDREWS: Well, we had the Phi Psi and Joe Nathan Wright [’68]. I think Dave Stearns went into that with his interview, because he was in Phi Psi. You know, we had to leave the national fraternity because we had a black guy. And [inaudible] had some contact with Joseph. He’s been at one of those fundraisers for Dartmouth over the last few years, and we’ve emailed and written back and forth a bit. And he’s obviously been a great asset to Dartmouth, and I think it worked both ways. But I remember at the time it was here’s one black guy joining a fraternity, and I think we in certain ways were welcoming, but we didn’t have kind of the background to really—I mean, he was always a little bit different, but, you know, that’s the way things start out, and I think there’s been a lot of progress probably since that. And, you know, I’m a lot more cosmopolitan now than I was back then, although I think from my experience traveling, it’s a little more cosmopolitan than some at the college at Dartmouth in the mid ‘60s.
But, you know, things like that, I think again, the sentiment, it’s kind of like the Vietnam War, the sentiment was there, but the actual actions and Joe’s thing really stood out, because we did that. I mean, a lot, probably the majority of the Dartmouth campus was “hey, we should integrate” and all this. But, there really wasn’t much—yeah, this wasn’t like you were in Alabama where 40% of the people are black, and you had a lot of black colleges there. He was “the unusual guy.” But there were others. I remember Buddy Noll was [inaudible] with me, a black guy from Colorado, and, you know, it was no big deal. I think the big thing was joining a fraternity and having the national fraternity say, “Hey, we don’t want black guys.” And we said, “Hey, it’s time that doesn’t matter. We’re gonna take this guy in anyway.”
JANOWSKI: Yeah, definitely. I know that Dartmouth, or at least with their national fraternities and national sororities, have kind of a history of going local when laws are not inclusive of different people. Yeah, so that’s interesting. All right. yeah, I think, in terms of then your decision to go into the Peace Corps after graduating, could you elaborate a bit on your decision making process there?
ANDREWS: Well, as I said, at that point I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I think I was—I guess Dartmouth is sort of on a—it’s a very pleasant place to be. It was almost too idyllic. It’s kind of like if you grew up in Singapore, which I kind of liken it to Disneyland, you know. It’s too nice. And maybe you want to go to Bangkok and see a more—it’s vibrant in the sense of just you don’t know what’s going to be around the next corner. So I guess I needed something as different as possible, and going to a place like Palau in particular, just culturally I’m still learning things from that experience there just because it was so different. So in that sense it was a little different than going to, you know, some moderately Western or somewhat Westernized place. This was culturally just a complete difference from… And was very educational. It was an experience that, yeah, it was a good complement to Dartmouth.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Did you know any people during your time at Dartmouth that joined the Peace Corps, or was this kind of a decision that you were inspired to do independently of that?
ANDREWS: No, I don’t recall talking… oh, I may have. Oh, I’m sure I talked with some friends about “hey, I’m thinking of going to the Peace Corps,” and I think there were certainly a lot of my colleagues at Dartmouth who were certainly beginning to question the Vietnam War, and like eventually Duncan Sleigh probably was more kind of… His response was, you know, him feeling he had to prove himself, but I think there were plenty of others who were, eventually became more anti-war and might have… [inaudible] the fraternity had a high number of Peace Corps people. I remember seeing in the ’68 newsletter he sent a list of people, and there were several who I—none that I knew well, but I knew of, but I remember talking with them and saying, “Hey, should we go to Canada, should we protest, should we join the Peace Corps.” You know, this was an individual decision and I haven’t really—again, for me it was more conscience than something I had to do just because I was a 4-F and I kind of felt guilty about that. That, you know, you don’t have to worry about going to Vietnam because you’re not draftable. So it’s yeah, again, just an individual decision.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. And you mentioned earlier that your parents weren’t too big on the idea.
ANDREWS: Well, no, they were not [inaudible]. They changed a lot, too, over the course of… You know, I mean, in the ‘50s they smoked, and they gave that up, I think, in the ‘60s, and my older sister had two kids, and her daughter had a partner—they both went, she and her partner went to Brown [University, Providence, RI], and they got married, and he’s a black guy. I mean, my mom had a tough time with this racial thing, but she came around and [inaudible]. And my wife is from South Korea. That took a little bit of, you know, [inaudible] kind of [inaudible], which I think now it’s much more polarizing. The majority of the country sees beyond the what I call “white nationalism” then, but I think then it was a much more common thing even and that’s why these are such a turbulent time, because we had that Civil War 150 plus years ago and not much has changed for a lot of people. And so, those are real issues in the country today.
But my parents certainly came around and were, yeah, they were a lot different people in their 70s than they were in their 40s. So, no, they didn’t mind my—I mean, they kind of questioned it, but it’s kind of like my decision to go to Dartmouth. They thought, “You know, why do you want to do – you’re skiing?” And, but yeah, I can say, “It’s my decision,” and the same thing with the Peace Corps, and I think in that case, for me at that time, I mean, if I’d have gone, if I had applied to med school and by chance I’d gotten in all of my grades after the first year when I—oh, they were okay and I didn’t flunk out, but I certainly wasn’t in the group I was in the first year, yeah, if I wouldn’t have gotten in. But, had I had, I’m sure I would have dropped out. And I needed something, you know, sort of like having a cardiac arrest, you need a shock to get you going.
JANOWSKI: So, when you joined the Peace Corps, did you get to decide on which country you went to?
ANDREWS: You give them a list and I think they prioritize. I guess if I said, “I really don’t want to go there…” I think another choice I had was Thailand. I’d been through Thailand when I came to Dartmouth from Australia. We spent three weeks with my parents in Singapore and Bangkok, and then yeah, we spent three weeks basically going, it was a semi-world tour. But yes, it’s kind of an interesting culture, but I remember I got, the Micronesia was the one they assigned me to and.. you know. So, it’s a mutual decision, I think, and if you don’t want to go to middle Africa, you don’t have to. I think you have some... It’s a little more liberal than the military, but I don’t think you can decide, “I’m going to this place” or not going.
JANOWSKI: Right. So, was Micronesia one of your top choices then, in terms of countries to go to?
ANDREWS: Yeah, oh yeah.
JANOWSKI: And why was that?
ANDREWS: Again, I keep looking for something totally different. Well, no, and as I mentioned, it was a US Trust Territory, so I didn’t feel like I’m going out and proselytizing the people in Kazakhstan or something, which they, you know, being a gringo, here’s, you know, we’re politically responsible for these people. And as an English as a Second Language teacher, I could justify that as we’re preparing these people to deal with their [inaudible]. I’m very proud of what’s going on with them and [inaudible], as having recently supporting Taiwan and the World Health Organization to standing up to the Chinese fishing boats. I mean, they’re tough people. And I think we gave them some of the language tools to be able to compete in the world these days.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. So then, when did you arrive in Micronesia?
ANDREWS: Well, we trained in the Truk, or they call it Chuuk Lagoon, which is further east, and spent a couple months there, and then went to Palau. I’m basically there for two years, and then I was one of the Peace Corps instructors for the training program in, I guess it was in Palau afterwards, and then went right into grad school in the fall of ’69.
JANOWSKI: So, you arrived in Truk, you said? Could you spell that?
ANDREWS: Well, I think it was T-r-u-k, but I think now it’s C-h-u-u-k. It’s a big lagoon, and it was a site of a lot of fighting in World War II. We used to go scuba diving, or not scuba, occasionally scuba, usually just free diving snorkel, and the lagoon’s littered with planes and ships and, you know, for diving it was fascinating. And the same thing was true on Palau, too, but there wasn’t much wartime activity there. But yeah, they trained everybody from Micronesia there in an off year, separate countries or separate regions of Micronesia, you know, because the languages are totally different, things like that.
JANOWSKI: So just to clarify, you arrived in the fall of 1967?
ANDREWS: Well, summer. I went directly, I guess right after graduation within a week or so, or a couple weeks. I think we met in San Francisco, and then this group flew out to the Truk, that Chuuk, and spent roughly two months there learning a language, you know, and culturally oriented, and then we flew off to, in my case, to Palau. I’m not sure how many, there was probably a dozen of us who ended up going to Palau, something like that.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. And also I understood and just your general, how did you feel when you first got to Truk in terms of, I’m sure that that was also a pretty jarring transition? Were you nervous, excited?
ANDREWS: I’d say more excited, I guess. I’ve been fortunate. I haven’t had any bad experiences. But I guess it’s… So a good analogy is the only time I’ve had cars stolen or broken into were once at Harvard and once at Brown, and, you know, I’ve rented cars and driven in various places around the world, and I’ve done stupid things. And so, I guess in approaching new areas, I don’t necessarily—maybe I should be more fearful than I should be [than I am], but human beings are pretty basic and good most everywhere if you use some common sense. So no, I was more excited, and it was a very interesting group of people in the Peace Corps. Obviously, quite a few were trying to avoid the draft, but I think most people were fairly positively motivated. So, it was an interesting cross-section of people from all across the US.
But, that was not—you know, I was in a village with, well, initially there was another Peace Corps guy who had come previously, and we were in the second group. I think the first group came no more than a year, and I think it may have been six months ahead of time, and the other guy I was in this village with, he kind of went native and he had to leave. He had some problems. So I was basically in a village by myself. For part of the time there was another Peace Corps volunteer who came for part of that to teach at the school.
But, the other Peace Corps people, you’d socialize with them, but our day to day existence was, you know, we were adopted into families, and I was basically the eldest son of the village magistrate, who was, actually wasn’t that high up in the kind of pecking order in the village, but, you know, it was a great relationship. I mean, so you really had a chance to learn about the culture that you couldn’t as a tourist or, you know, it is, again, an experience that I think everybody should have the opportunity to do that when they’re young to go to a completely different environment and see what people are like around the world.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. I guess just backtracking a little bit, could you describe, what was your training like? What different activities and things did you do during that period?
ANDREWS: Well, a lot of it was learning the language, and we learned some Trukese as well as Palauan. We knew we were going to Palau. So what they had done is built, they had laid a cement slab that’s, I don’t know, 25, 30 feet, and built up like a small cottage for there was probably six or eight of us. And we were going to Palau eventually and we had a Palauan kind of interpreter language guy. And Henry [inaudible] was like, had a lot of funny stories, but he was a real character.
And so, there was a Trukese family that they would get this built, this little structure was kind of in their back yard, and they provided us prepared meals and stuff like that, so we got to kind of know them. And so, the day was a lot of language, cultural stuff. We did a lot of things. Diving together. And we’d go out, a number of—one of the other people who weren’t Palau, Wayne I think is his first name, he just finished a master’s in classics at Harvard, and he was from New Orleans, but very interested in languages, and he and I, I got sent to one of the—there’s islands in the lagoon that are almost like separate cultures, and we got sent there for a weekend, just to kind of experience different situations from the south of places like that.
And so, we were there for a couple of days, and one morning the locals came in and said, “The High Chief wants to meet with you later and have a big celebration dinner together, but let’s go out and have something to drink.” And this is like 10:00 in the morning, and so, you know, Wayne and I are “oh, okay.” So we’re drinking this stuff, but we’re obviously, so you drink until you’re a little bit high, and we’re going—and then they say, “Well, okay, that’s enough. You go back and rest up for a couple of hours and we’ll come and get you and we’ll have dinner.” And, so we’re going back, and we’re getting drunker and drunker, and, you know, we could hardly stand up when we went to the dinner. And it turns out they’d mixed their stuff and it ferments, and occasionally they have people rupture their intestines; it ferments basically after you drink it. And it was an interesting experience that it could have gone the other way. But, you know, since it turned that way, we had a great time, and they were—and I told you after my Dartmouth experience my liver was in pretty good shape, but those guys, they can hang in there. But, you know, that’s what I say that you do, you just did things like that. So, I mean, I learned to sit down and just listen to people for, I was going to say for hours, sometimes it would be, you might say it was boring, but it sinks in. And I think you just learn to be open with people who are coming from a very different place than you come from.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, for sure. I think kind of also, in terms of your training and learning about the culture, was there anything else that I guess surprised you about the culture there?
ANDREWS: Well, I think, yeah, a good example of it, we were in the village in Palau. This was kind of a usual place, the Japanese had occupied those islands, and apparently there was some bauxite that they apparently mined. And the main island, Palau, is one of the bigger islands in Micronesia. It’s mountainous. It’s probably 30 or 40 miles long and maybe 15 miles wide, but it’s pretty mountainous. And the village I was in is where they built a pier and they had a gondola system to carry this bauxite out when they were loading it on the ships, and this was all broken down because that was back in the early ‘40s. But they also had the only—it wasn’t really a river, but it was a navigable by motor boat up to the village which was probably a kilometer through the mangrove swamps. But, let’s see, I was going to tell you about… I’m trying to remember now. The reason I got that little intro…
Oh yeah, so the school, there’s the school, a Western school just for elementary school, and they needed to put in an outhouse, or redo it. I guess they had a basic village outhouse. So, anyway, it was a Saturday. All the young guys in the village get together at 7:00 or something, and “oh, we’re gonna build this outhouse today,” 8 or 10 of us. The first thing they do is they sit down and they open up a few bottles of either San Miguel, the beer from the Philippines, or Kirin or Asahi from Japan. Had a few beers. Okay. And worked like dogs for two hours. And they’d sit down and we’d drink some more. That’s the way the day went. It got built. And so hey, it was a lot more fun than if you just sat down and said, “Yeah, okay, we’re gonna build this thing. And yeah, we’ll work all day and then we’ll party at the end.” They kind of broke it up, and so a different situation than I think would be kind of a Western way of looking at it. But then it got [both talk at the same time] People have different approaches but they’d been working to get it done.
JANOWSKI: So, you mentioned, then, you were in training for was it two months?
ANDREWS: Yeah, roughly.
JANOWSKI: What was that like trying to learn a language in just two months?
ANDREWS: Well, we weren’t very fluent, but—and there was a time when I was more fluent in Palauan than—I’m not very fluent in any other formal language. I could speak some Spanish, and I took quite a bit of French and read French okay, and I think I could probably communicate fairly well if I spent six months in France. So, those sort of things. But, Palauan, one, is so structurally so different, but, you know, you’re immersed in it, so you become pretty fluent pretty quickly. You know, I mean, you don’t have much choice. The kids spoke fair English at that time, but they were pretty much, up until the Peace Corps came, they were educated by people who weren’t native English speakers. So, no, you had to learn fairly quickly, you know, at least basic communication.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, for sure. And I guess, so was everyone in your Peace Corps cohort that you were there with, were they all there to learn how to become ESL teachers in Micronesia?
ANDREWS: Not everyone, but the vast majority. I think there were some administrative or [inaudible], things like sanitation or whatever, but I think that was pretty rare, because the majority were teaching English. Yeah.
JANOWSKI: So then, after your two months, you went to Palau then to be an English teacher?
ANDREWS: Yeah. They flew us in and I remember we didn’t have much luggage. I think I had one suitcase, and it got lost, and so I remember taking a speedboat from—yeah, we flew into the airport in Palau, and then it took a two or three hour boat ride up to this village, and I had a t-shirt and shorts and flip flops and I had gotten a Coleman lantern, I guess just to leave when I left Truk at the commissary sort of place, which was a store, and that’s all I had. They dropped me off on this dock and this young woman came out who was actually, she was a villager, but she was visiting. She was in training at the medical school in Fiji. But she was talking in pretty good English, and so she came out and met me and we walked a kilometer to the village, and that was it. And fortunately she and a young fellow who probably was high school age at that time, Felix, spoke very good English, and he had actually just a few months before that had taken the National Geographic team that—they did an article on Palau in ’67 at some point, and he’d been the guide just because his English was good and he was a very sociable kid. He kind of showed them around. So, then I managed language-wise.
You know, it’s a little different. You’re sleeping on a bamboo floor with a bunch of people, and outhouses, and yeah, stuff like that. And there’s people who, there was a few, I think [inaudible] Peace Corps and able to get their training, they’re in for a few weeks, they say, “Hey, this is not for me. I’m gonna go back to, you know, gringo existence.” But, I found that, you know, some things are challenging, but you, you know, go with the flow, and then eventually usually, and I found this true just about everywhere I’ve gone, that it can be an interesting time.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. What was the name of the village that you were in?
ANDREWS: Ngardmau, that’s N-g-a-r-d-m-a-u. That was the first year. I was in the, if you want to call it the capital, Koror, K-o-r-o-r, the second year at the high school.
JANOWSKI: So then, yeah, your first year you were teaching English to, I think you mentioned a group of fourth through sixth graders, is that correct?
ANDREWS: Well, elementary school. Yeah, I think I, because I know I—we taught them math and basic science and stuff, because there was a lot of—and that’s a funny [inaudible] because they’re not to where, they’re not quite to puberty, so they’re not just thinking about other things, but they’re intellectually curious. And we taught them some basic algebra and all that, as well as the English. And no, it was a fun group to work with. But, there were [inaudible] see how kids were there.
And, you know, it’s the one thing, one of the more educational things there is the way the culture’s set up, it’s a clan system and the people tend to be in nuclear families, but they weren’t really biologically necessarily nuclear families. It was matrilineal, which makes a lot of sense. But, what was really interesting about it is their women pretty much initiated any sexual interactions, and they had morning after potions and stuff, so they didn’t have any kids they didn’t want to have. But the women tend to have their children when they were in their late teens or maybe early 20s, and they went until usually their mid-30s in which to settle down and basically raise their grandkids.
So it’s pretty hard for most Western cultures to accept, but there’s actually, especially for our culture where, you know, women want to go to graduate school or something, and I knew people even in my generation, and even more true now, if they have kids, they’re not having them until their late 30s or something. It’s not a very healthy time to do it. But here the raising of the kids was much more distributed amongst not just the biological parents, but relatives, clan members, and then you would settle down in your mid 30s and basically pretty much raise your grandkids, and that ended up turning, you know, it happened…
You know, for us it was a great thing. My wife and I had kids that her parents basically lived with us while they were growing up, and it was great for them, the kids, and for her, and gave her a lot more independence. So, things like that you can learn from other cultures, and the irreplaceables as cultures go away and we get homogenized to the, quote, “whatever’s on Netflix and the internet.” It’s kind of sad. So I think those are the lessons that I’m just so glad that I did something like that, because people just, you don’t realize there’s other perfectly viable ways of existing that may have some real advantages, unless you see them and experience them.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, definitely. And I think you also mentioned earlier something about your host family. Could you elaborate a bit more on that?
ANDREWS: Yeah. Well, my mom and dad were fairly senior, and they were probably in their, I’m just guessing 50s at the time. Well, they may not have been quite that old, because their kids were elementary school age, although again, I’m not sure that was their biological kids. But yeah, I mean, basically I got, I think one reason I was assigned to that family is I think their kids were younger, and so they may have been raised in probably more biological, like grandkids, they could use, quote, “an elder son” that would kind of provide for them. So I’d go out fishing. I was fortunate that one of the two, they were English language supervisors, Westerners, we had two of them. I guess there were two for just all of Palau, the rural outside areas on Palau on the main island, and one of them was in my village. And he was originally from Latvia, although he grew up—in his teens he came to the US and went to college at Kent State in Ohio. And he’d been in, he and this other colleague, Ivan, had been in the Peace Corps in the Philippines. They both had Filipino wives, and they ended up—in fact, they stayed out in Micronesia, and unfortunately my good friend Ed passed away a couple years ago, but Ivan’s still up there, retired now. But they were in the educational system for Micronesia for many years.
But he was there, and he was the best non-Palauan spear gun fisherman I have ever met. So he was also a big help language-wise. I think my Palauan became as good as his after a while. But we would do things with the locals going fishing, which was, I mean, Palau has got some of the best diving in the world. Jacques Cousteau used to go there just because it was there and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, really the two main points. That’s where we’d go out fishing because if we didn’t fish, we were eating Spam and taro, you know. The fresh fish were great, so we’d go out fishing about several times a week, usually weekends or sometimes night fishing and things like that. And that’s one reason I was adopted into the family. But, you know, you get to know the teachers. The vast majority—well, in the village they were all Palauans. In the high school there were some Filipino—they had a lot of Filipino people in the semi-professional fields there, as well as Palauan.
JANOWSKI: So then, in 1968, so after your first year, you were then promoted to co-director of the ESL program at high school?
ANDREWS: Well, no, they had a—there was one high school for the whole, you know, for Palau. I was in this district center at Koror. And yeah, I got asked to be one of them along with, I think we had a—I think he was actually originally Filipino; I think he’d been there a long time. He and I were asked to I guess go in and improve this. And it was interesting—so I moved into Koror for the second year—but it was interesting, the principal at that school was from Washington State, I think, Spokane. He’d been a principal at a high school in the US, and he just didn’t relate to the Palauans. He wasn’t malicious, but he had every day had some sort of slogan about, you know, work hard and you’ll succeed sort of thing. And he was just kind of turning people off and I remember…
[Pause in recording.]
JANOWSKI: Sorry about the interruption.
ANDREWS: No, that’s okay. We’re back. So, one of the more interesting aspects of this second year being at the high school was with one of the other, he was a Peace Corps volunteer as well as one of the teachers there. I think he’d been there the previous year, as well. We kind of sat down and said, “Hey, this principal’s really holding things back. The Palauans are—they just don’t respect him, and now he’s not relating to them and not listening to them.” So, we sat down and got over lunch one day, just kind of had a game plan. He was much more, I think had been in tune a little more with what was going on in the US at the time, and organized a—you know, what some Palauans say, you know, “If you take things—you know, you’re gonna have to live with this guy. If you really don’t like him, let’s see if we can get him removed.” And they got him removed. And so, that was a little bit of local activism, and I think people were happier after that. But it was just, you know, and again, another interesting experience that year, somewhat different. You know, I think it’s, you can never know too much, so I learned from that as well, a little different aspect of living in Paleo and working with a different age group of kids. I mean, a lot of these—you know, I was 20 when they were at there, age 20 to 22, and again, the high school students, a lot of them were older than I was. I mean, you know, women had maybe had one or two kids, and then you went back to school, and the guys might drop out for a year or two. And so it’s an interesting time.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. And you briefly mentioned, just in terms of keeping up with news in America while you were in Palau, was that difficult? How quickly were you able to receive news there?
ANDREWS: You know, I guess we heard about it, but the whole Vietnam thing, I think we were pretty busy with what we were doing. I know one time somebody fairly high up in the Navy came, I think it was that second year, and approached me. And I guess they were looking at, you know, parts of Palau had been fairly major naval bases for the Japanese. I don’t think the Americans ever got in, but I think they were looking at it. The Vietnam War—it was not that far geographically from Vietnam. I think they were thinking of maybe establishing something there, but other than that, it was kind of an interesting couple of hours with this fellow. I think he was trying to get, you know, have me fill him in on what Palau was like, and I think they maybe were thinking of putting in something, an installation there, but that never happened. I don’t recall the whole Vietnam… It really was no big thing at Dartmouth a few years earlier. We were pretty wrapped up in what we were doing, and it didn’t affect us personally.
So, you know, I’m just trying to think. Now, and one of the things, that it was during that time that, you probably—you may have heard of Lee Marvin, the actor? Or maybe not. He’s before your time. But he was a pretty well-known actor in the US, kind of a Clint Eastwood type. But they filmed a movie called Hell in the Pacific, which, you know, if you want to see Palau, it was filmed in Palau in the probably early ’68, ’69, because it was while I was at the high school. And the, quote, “hotel”, which was Quonset huts with the cross, and the high school in Koror, it was also Quonset huts. And so Lee was there, and he’d occasionally buy us lunch, you know, if we came over or have a drink after school.
And I mentioned that that movie was about—there’s only two actors, he and Toshiro Mifune, who was a very famous Japanese actor, and they were two downed pilots on this island, you know, Japanese and American. And so, it was interesting because we’d have parties on the beaches where this had been filmed, but if someone wanted to see the geography of that, it’s called Hell in the Pacific. But, you know, I remember there were so many things like, events like that, and apart from this Navy guy, you know, I guess the war was in the back of our minds. We couldn’t do anything about it, and at least for me, you know, I was not happy with it. And I think one of the questions was about Duncan Sleigh. I didn’t learn about his demise until after coming back, I’m almost certain. I mean, I can’t think of anybody I really kept in touch with at that time. I have since, you know, Dartmouth people I was with.
Actually one interesting thing just before I left Dartmouth in, you know, at the end of ’67, or spring of ’67, I happened to mention to the librarian at Baker Library, and she said, “Oh, you’re going to Palau. You’ll have to meet this world famous entomologist and he studies bugs, insects. He’s been out in Palau for decades now.” And I don’t know how she knew him, but anyway. And so, yeah, the second year when I was in Koror I met this guy, and I didn’t have the heart to get in touch with her about him because he’d become a complete alcoholic. And he had graduate students with him doing some interesting work, but I mean, he really partied. But, he had gone totally, you know, kind of loco and just kind of became a degenerate, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her, “Hey, your former colleague or friend or however you knew him, he’s—fortunately he has some graduate students who are doing some interesting work, but he’s not really contributing a whole lot because he’s rarely sober.”
JANOWSKI: Do you remember his name? [both talk at the same time]
ANDREWS: You know, the stuff like that, you’re I guess so tied up. And it’s just physically such a beautiful place. And, you know, I just found the people, well, it’s so intriguing that I couldn’t do anything about Vietnam, so I certainly didn’t look for information, although we didn’t, again, I guess I was always spared of that until I got back.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. And in terms of your, I guess your other cohorts in the Peace Corps, in terms of their attitudes to the Vietnam War, I know that you mentioned that some of them took part in it to avoid the draft. I guess, do you have any takeaways from their major sentiments towards the Vietnam War?
ANDREWS: I think they were, I mean, against it like, I think I mentioned Jamie Newton. I think he was a Quaker. And then, Peter Bien was in that sense, too. I mean, I think had they not gotten in the Peace Corps, they might have gone to Canada or whatever. They were obviously against the war and I think time has shown that… you know, I knew many more people later on, especially in my training in medicine, who were Vietnam vets who had been either in the military or in the infantry or whatever. And yeah, I mean, they did it out of a sense of duty, but I’m not sure anybody in retrospect thinks this was a—you know, and it was a mistake. We’ve gotten—our history in the US in international relations is not something to be very proud of, unfortunately, and I think that’s one thing you learn about traveling around the world, you know, everybody, they think their own country’s the best. But, we certainly have—a lot of the chickens are coming home to roost with the world problems today, or can be related to things that American diplomacy over the last hundred years... That’s why you try to learn from your mistakes. I mean, that’s all you can do. You can’t change the past, but you certainly can change the future.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. And I think that’s kind of an interesting sentiment, too, in terms of Palau. I’m not sure if I exactly remember how you described your relationship between Palau and the US. But…
ANDREWS: You mean presently or then?
JANOWSKI: Then, when you were there.
ANDREWS: Well, it was a Trust Territory, which means, well, I don’t think it was exactly the same relation as Puerto Rico, but something like that. They had administrative responsibilities, but, and I think they put some money into the government. I mean, most of the people in Palau, I mean, they looked for government jobs because that was a secure education. Apart from that and fishing, now they have tourism, but fishing was the only export. I guess now maybe some coconuts or things like that, too, but not major industries. And so, I think that’s a pretty positive relationship. And Palau now is an independent country. They chose not to—the Federated States of Micronesia and most of the rest of Micronesia, and I’m not sure the Mariana Islands, they may be separate as well now. I can’t [inaudible] the politics of them. Palau has been independent for 20 or 30 years now, and they’ve… I mean, I think what’s impressive is their sort of gumption and ability to stand, like I said, to things like China’s incursions and, you know, I think taking the rights, it’s one of the few countries that’s standing up for them as far as Taiwan versus China. So, I’m proud of those people.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Let’s see. I guess moving along, you had a different job then your third year in Palau. Is that correct?
ANDREWS: Well, no. I was there two years, and then I was an instructor for a couple of months the summer of ’69 before I went to grad school. So, yeah, a little over two years.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, okay. What was your experience like then as an instructor, kind of on the other side of things?
ANDREWS: I guess because you were sort of like that as a second year especially kind of coordinating a bunch of teachers, and I think we had I don’t know how many hundreds of—I don’t think there were a thousand students in this high school, but it was 700 or 800 I think over a four-year high school. And so, having been through it a couple years earlier, I don’t have any specific recollections. I mean, it’s just something I did, and I think I had a background that maybe the Peace Corps asked me if I wanted to do that, and then schedule-wise worked out okay. So, as I said, I don’t have anything that stuck out as being hey, this was incredibly unexpected or, you know, that didn’t really sway my life in the long run. It just felt like college, see if we can help the next generation of people that are coming out here.
JANOWSKI: And so were you always planning on just being in Palau for two years, then?
ANDREWS: Well, it’s a two-year commitment, the Peace Corps. I guess you could extend. One, you didn’t get very much. I think you ended up with, was it $1,800 at the end, which it’s considerably more now, but it wouldn’t last you very long if you didn’t have something to do when you left the Peace Corps. So, and I think for me I certainly, you know, I didn’t anticipate staying there forever. I did—my major decision was where do I go afterwards? And for me it was a decision—I’d gotten offered a what’s it called, East-West Center scholarship at the University of Hawaii. And it was financially—and I was interested in it. I almost took that up. I mean, financially it was a great thing. It really paid for everything, gave you stipends and all sorts of stuff. But I got in the medical program at Harvard, but you know, no money and all this sort of thing, and that was probably one of the best decisions to go to Harvard instead as it turned out, unlike one of my colleagues, Greg’s his first name, who married a Palau woman and he ended up going to med school in Hawaii and getting his degree, and he’s retired now recently, but still lives in Palau, and he was one of their major health care people. I guess I feel a little guilty I didn’t do that, but I guess I still was in development phase.
You know, some people are born—or they’re not born, but because of parental influence or whatever, you know, “I’m gonna run my dad’s company” or “I’m gonna be a lawyer” or whatever, and I didn’t have a clue. So, for me it’s been trial and error. And I remember taking, you know, along that line, taking those AP [Advanced Placement] tests at Dartmouth the first week you get there, and yeah, I guess some people score really high on some thing, and I was moderately okay on just about everything, and that’s kind of the way, I guess, to find out what I really like doing, I kind of have to try it and see. I think it’s just the way I’m made up. But I can’t tell ahead of time. I mean, I can tell things I’m interested in, and that usually works out, but as far as a career, that’s a major decision.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Oh, no, go ahead.
ANDREWS: Well, I was just going to say I think what Palau did for me as far as long-term is, I recall my interests. I was interested in how language reflects culture, because the Palauan language was so different. They had different counting systems for different shaped objects. They had hundreds of terms for blue and green, all kinds of shades of it because the sea and the green of the palm trees and all that were crucial to them. And again, things like the culture with this matrilineal and the whole approach, I mean, we’d be so much further ahead if we could learn some of that stuff. I mean, so many of those problems we have these days are related to patriarchal societies and overbearing religions and stuff like that. Anyway, there’s a lot to be learned from…
But, these things are dying out now, like the languages, and that’s why when I started grad school, I was interested in linguistics. I remember taking a couple of courses from people at MIT in their linguistics department who were studying languages that had three native speakers still alive. And, you know, there’s things to be learned there. And I think the same thing is true culturally, that we’re losing, whether it’s Native American or Palauan, there’s things to be learned from these people, because they certainly have a more long-term viable answer than we seem to be going towards with our culture presently—and I’m saying the US or the Western world. But anyway, I think the lesson for me in the long run from Palau was, you know it kind of gave me direction to what I wanted, or at least thought I wanted to pursue in graduate school. And I gradually evolved to what I am now, making my career at..
JANOWSKI: Yeah. So then, as you departed from the Peace Corps, did you already have plans in place then to go to Harvard for grad school?
ANDREWS: Oh yeah, yeah, I mean, I’m not sure, I might have had a couple of weeks between finishing the Peace Corps training program, and I might have finished in August or early September, and then I’m right into grad school. Now, I applied, I guess probably what, in the spring or whatever. And as I say, I don’t think I applied—you know, I’m trying to think how the Harvard thing came up. I know the East-West, they may have gotten in touch with me, but those are the two… I’m not really sure I applied to the other things, though, once I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do, but I certainly was kind of captivated by the whole society there, how different it was, how much I was learning from within, you know, since now the language reflects culture.
Oh, I had one interesting aside, that, you know, I’d been an English literature major, and so when I went to Palau I started keeping a diary in at least spiral notebooks, and it was interesting that, you know, they didn’t have indoor plumbing anywhere there, but certainly not in the villages. And so, they would use things like the old Sears catalogs for toilet paper. And one day my diary after a couple of months disappeared, and I think I thought, “Jesus, this probably went from diary to diarrhea.” Somebody probably just took it and figured this was good for toilet paper. And so I think it… I remember saying, “Jesus, maybe I should be living like I’m not worrying about recording it at this point.” And so, I kind of put any interest in writing kind of on the backburner for quite a while.
But, so it’s things like that that you might say “Jeez” initially. It’s kind of like my motorcycle accident in college. It was probably, you know, I mean, from a very practical point, made me a 4-F so I wasn’t meant to worry about the draft. But, it also gave me—there’s something about having a near death experience that makes you value life. And, so I think in the long run that may have been a plus. I mean, I certainly felt sorry for myself for a while. It kind of ruined my plans for my summer and fall overseas study and that sort of thing I had planned, but in the long run maybe it—it made me think about, you know, maybe I’d better get serious about life. Anyway, so I couldn’t change it anyway, but maybe you kind of look for the positive side. And that’s how losing this diary, I think I eventually said, Yeah, maybe I should not think about documenting everything I’m doing. Just live it and see where you are in a few years.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Let’s see. So then, it sounds like there’s a pretty quick turn-around period between you coming back to the States and then starting grad school. What was that transition like? Was that pretty jarring? I would imagine.
ANDREWS: Yeah, I think everybody who went to the Peace Corps, that was a pretty known phenomenon. Not PTSD, but just reacclimatizing to the Western culture, and especially with the Vietnam War on. It was, again I guess I kept myself busy enough that, I mean, it was in the back of my mind, but I guess I’m a believer in, you know, if you can’t change something, why worry about it? And I had enough—you know, I was fascinated with what I was doing as I got interested in linguistics, and I ended up—you could cross-register—I ended up doing most of my, or a good portion of my early first year courses for MIT, and I got [inaudible] a couple courses with Noam Chomsky and theoretical linguistics. You know, he was transitioning then to being an anti-war activist at that time. You’ve got to give him credit from retiring—you said it—let the younger people take over linguistics. He felt that the calling was more for what was going on in the country with the war, that he needed to bring that to people’s attention. So, between my interests academically and what was going on in the war, I didn’t see too much of a withdrawal from the Peace Corps.
JANOWSKI: Sorry, did you mention that you took classes that were taught by Noam Chomsky?
ANDREWS: Yeah. Yeah, a couple. And it was interesting, Peter Bien was saying how—you know, I guess he was [inaudible] a place like Dartmouth, and I guess he went—dropped—I think he left Harvard to go to Haverford. You know, he wasn’t Quaker, but he became a Quaker. But, he said it was an undergraduate, there were huge classes and you never really got to see the professors and, you know, you didn’t have any interaction, and so he was much better at a place like Dartmouth. And I think one of the things I have a regret while I was at Dartmouth, I mean, I took his course, but I really didn’t get to know him, and I probably said something. I don’t think at that point, I don’t recall somebody like him saying, “Hey, okay class,” and it was a fairly small class, you know, “why don’t you all come over for dinner?” or something, or “let’s discuss things.” I might have met him once or twice in the office to talk about term papers or something.
But, you know, Dartmouth was certainly a better environment than a big university on that score. But, I certainly thought in grad school, [inaudible] and I met a couple of times again, you know, with Noam Chomsky about course work and things he was interested in. They were not long conversations, but then we got back in touch many years later, which is kind of an interesting story. But, you know, I felt access to some pretty responsible or big name people as a graduate student, but I was probably different as an undergraduate.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. No, that’s really interesting. You said you got back in touch with him later?
ANDREWS: Ah, it’s interesting. This is, it’d be about ten—probably ___ 12 years ago I was in Pakistan. Actually, I don’t know if it was my first visit there, but anyway, a good friend of mine now a neurosurgeon in Lahore who actually got me—if you were the first back then, you certainly got to meet, and he invited me to come to one of their international meetings. This is like back in the like 2000s, ’08 or so, ’07 or ’08. And, so we’re driving from Lahore to Islamabad, which is about a four or five hour drive on a, it’s kind of like an interstate highway, not a whole lot of traffic except trucks. But, and you know, typically there they have a driver. So he and I are in the back seat and we’re talking, and somehow it came up, I said, “Oh, yeah, I took some courses from Noam Chomsky.” And so, he knew more about Chomsky’s work than anybody I’ve known in the US, you know, the social policy stuff he’d written. And so we were talking about it for a while, and he said, “Well, why don’t you get in touch with me? I’ve got a couple of questions that you could ask.” And so, I emailed him and he emailed me back, and we’ve kept in touch, oh, every year or so.
In fact, I met in that interview with one of his colleagues in Pakistan who was kind of a Noam Chomsky of Pakistan. He’s a nuclear physicist who had been at MIT, and he’s in Pakistan now, and I spent an evening with he and his wife. And yeah, so, again kind of a small world, but… But it was interesting that [inaudible], my colleague in Pakistan knows much more about Noam Chomsky than just about anybody I know in the US. I’m sure that somebody had really studied it. Some very knowledgeable people around the world, especially in US politics from a more international view. Anyway, that was a little bit of an aside, but…
JANOWSKI: No, that’s interesting, though. So the class you took with him were, they were linguistics classes, right?
ANDREWS: Yeah. Yeah. Transformational grammar and… Yeah, I just found that interesting, kind of amazing joining mathematics with linguistics. And over the course of my years in grad school, I got more and more interested in the language in the brain, and that’s my dissertation was on the language organization in the right and left hemispheres. So, and that led me into going to medical school. As I say, fortunately I’d taken most of the pre-med—well, I’d taken pre-med courses. I had to take a few more courses, well partly to show I could, you know, in those areas I could get fairly decent grades. Yeah, then I came back right after I finished my dissertation and right into med school at Dartmouth.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. I guess one other thing I’m curious about then is, Chomsky was a pretty outspoken anti-war activist. Did that ever come through in lectures or any of your interactions with him?
ANDREWS: Pretty much kept that separate. This was kind of right when he was transitioning, ’69, it probably was ’70, and that was the first year, I think. I mean, certainly if you were talking about the war, and I know one of the things I was involved in was English as a Second Language. I guess one of the things that—you already mentioned this transition—I did work with the Boston school system. I remember Joe Ford was their English as a Second Language guy, an Irish guy, and he used to tell me, you know, “Stay practical. Don’t get in your Ivory Tower with all of those Harvard guys.”
So, I developed, worked with Polaroid Corporation to, for an English as a Second Language for all of them. They had a lot of employees from the Azores, Portugese speaking, and they wanted to get them more fluent in English, and we developed a program for them. But a couple of the—it wasn’t Chomsky, but a couple of his younger people were so anti-war and anti-Polaroid with Apartheid in South Africa—I guess they had some dealings in South Africa—and they kind of made it difficult, and I guess my view was, if these people are willing to spend their money on something productive, I don’t think we have to agree with them 100%, but some of the younger people were really anti-war and anti-Apartheid and that sort of thing, so, you know, “that’s dirty money” and “you shouldn’t get them funding this.” Not much of that’s productive. Chomsky was above all that, so he wasn’t involved in that stuff. I think he realized that some of the junior people were a little more radical. So that was one of the ways that, you know, I kind of transitioned and also saw the war kind of affect things like that. I mean, I went to Washington a few times and was in demonstrations, and I didn’t get arrested and that sort of thing, but I certainly was pretty strongly anti-war. But I think by then, you know, the early ‘70s, an awful lot of people were.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, definitely. So yeah, you went to Washington for protests. Could you I guess describe, I guess, well, first of all, how did you get involved in that? And did you have any peers that you went with?
ANDREWS: Oh, there were groups of us that went, although again, that wasn’t my main focus. I mean, yeah, I was studying, doing my grad school work and trying to figure out—it seemed like each year I’d become involved with what I was interested in. Eventually my dissertation was basically my main advisor was the head of neurology at Beth Israel, and a very well-known person, and so I was—I had that side. That was my main focus, but I certainly was not in favor of the war and interested in that sense, but I wasn’t an organizer or anything like that. And then we were going to Washington with, you know, there might be a carfull of us that would drive down for a demonstration, but I wasn’t, you know, a Mark Rudd or something like that.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Let’s see here then. So, you went to medical school at Dartmouth. What year did you start that?
ANDREWS: ’74. Yeah, I had—my interests kind of evolved into being interested in the brain basically, and so, at that point I was interested in the mind. Originally I was interested in being a neurologist. So I was quite different from most med students, and I really knew what I wanted to do. I was interested in the brain, and so, you know, a lot of people in med school that come in there and, you know, it’s competitive, and they’re trying to figure out what specialty they want to go to. And I, having gone to grad school and just where I was, so I kind of focused on the academics, and I found med school fascinating. We spent a month or so studying the kidney, and just when you might be getting kind of saturated with it, you’re on to something else. And I thought Dartmouth did a great job with, particularly on the clinical end, you know, and we got much more involved. I mean, I did basically just appendectomies and stuff, you know, with attendings.
You worked your butt off a lot harder than they seem to be in med school now. I know at Stanford particularly I was involved with the medical school admissions, and as a faculty member, we used to know what the residents, particularly in neurosurgery are going through, and having gone through that myself. But, I think Dartmouth did a great job that way. And I’m trying to think what else.
Oh, actually he gave me a few directions within—I mean, I thought I’d go into neurology because it’s in the brain, and I can remember one of the faculty, Donald Wilson, who unfortunately passed away from cancer. He was young, he was under 60. But, there was a young, I think she was about a two or three-year-old toddler who fell, and she had a subdural hematoma and went into a coma. And the med school screened this, I don’t know if it was the first year, probably first or second year. And so, operated on her and took out the hematoma and she woke up and basically was normal, and that kind of stuck with me. It was one of the factors, I think, that switched me over to neurosurgery rather than neurology.
I just kind of liked doing something, you know, and I always enjoyed doing things, worked with my hands, like when I was growing up, we did a lot of things with my dad, some woodwork, rebuilding engines and cars, and I raced go karts and things like that. So, you know, the surgery aspect really appealed to me. I think it was very formative for me in a different sense than probably a lot of med students who are trying to figure out what aspect of medicine. I knew I was interested in the brain, and I kind of grabbed to that, and a couple of summers spent at the University of Pennsylvania with their neurosurgery people solidified that interest.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, I guess I—oh, sorry I didn’t mean to cut you off.
ANDREWS: No, go ahead.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. I guess another thing that I’m kind of curious about is in terms of coming back to Dartmouth then as a grad student, obviously at that point in 1974, co-education had happened at Dartmouth. Were there—I guess, what did you notice about that, and like some of the major changes from your time as an undergrad to your time as a grad student?
ANDREWS: Oh. Yeah, well, see I was in the med school rather than the undergrad, so I don’t know. I guess I had gotten used to it in grad school, you know, women being around and colleagues, and so, I mean, I can’t speak to the undergraduate at Dartmouth because I really didn’t have much contact with them. You know, you’re pretty—and certainly at Dartmouth it’s a pretty intense experience, one I think everywhere in those days. I mean, you would work—I remember my clinical years, I wouldn’t be out of the hospital for more than a half a day for six months at a time. We’d finish a rotation and make rounds on Sunday, and you’d start your next rotation Monday morning, and then a bunch of us would go out and have a great meal Sunday evening. But, it’s not like that these days where, you know, the 80 hour week or 60 hour work week or whatever, and yeah, we’d work day and night. And, so you’d basically work, you know, a med student, I mean, that was basically your life.
And I found it interesting and I didn’t… It was, like I said, the one thing that was difficult is the testing. It’s like going back to high school. I mean, here I’d finished a dissertation on language organization in the brain and I’m going back to memorizing, you know, anatomy and things. So, fortunately things, like I said, moved on fast enough, but if I had had to spend six months on the kidney or something, I probably would have not been too happy. But if, you know, you spend a month or so… Hey, it’s satisfying work and you learned something from it.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Let’s see, I’m trying to figure out the best way to go through your career, because I mean, it seems like you had a pretty, I would say illustrious career.
ANDREWS: I don’t know about illustrious—varied.
JANOWSKI: We could—I’m kind of interested in your experience as a US Army flight surgeon. When did you start with that position?
ANDREWS: Well, so the last part of med school, I had saved up enough money, I did some teaching, teaching assistant, and got some scholarships when I was in grad school, and so I paid for the first two years of med school, or first part of it. And the second part, I didn’t want to take out a loan, I didn’t want to ask my parents for money, and at that point the chairman—and I knew I wanted to go into neurosurgery, so I was looking around and the chairman at Walter Reed, Al, Albert Martins, he was a world class surgeon, did great research and all that, and so I said, Oh, gees, maybe I’ll do my residency there, and they had this scholarship program. They would pay for your education. You owed them a year for each year they paid. So, they paid for two years, so I had a two-year commitment with the military, and I also did my internship, a surgical internship at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center, Washington, DC].
And so, I went—actually my last rotation in med school was at NIH, National Institutes of Health, in neuropharmacology of all things. It turned out to be very interesting, because it’s there are certain drugs that cause permanent changes in the brain, and so people are saying, “Well, you don’t want to offer it because it might damage… a drug is OK…” Well, some drugs are a lot worse than most things I can do surgically if you do them carefully. So, that was an interesting experience.
But another thing is I stayed the following year, because they were quite close to each other, Walter Reed and Bethesda, [MD] so I was about 18 months in Washington, DC. And Al Martins, I spent a couple of months on neurosurgery, and he was quite open with me. You know, I was interested in neurosurgery and he said, “Well, you know, I’m approaching my 20 years in the military and I’ve served, my family’s military and I’m a West Pointer. As soon as I get 20 years, I’m leaving, and so I wouldn’t be your chairman.” And so then I started looking around and I kind of chose my real two places that I had to decide between was the Mayo Clinic and Stanford. And so, I ended up going to Stanford of the two. But, I had to come make some decisions and he was very open about it.
But what is kind of sad is when, well, chronologically, I had finished the internship here and I had two years to pay. Ah, I’m gonna get the two years out of the way and I’m gonna start a residency and I’m gonna get called out by the military or that sort of thing. And I decided, you know, at this point actually I knew I was going to Stanford. They had agreed to take me in ’81, a few years later. And so, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with that, and I got this request from the military saying, “Hey do you want to be a flight surgeon? And we’d like you to go three years because we need somebody in a place like Turkey.” You know, this was right when Iran was in kind of dire straits in ’79. In fact, a lot of people we operated on at Walter Reed then were Iranian generals and stuff with heart problems and all sorts of medical issues. We were kind of—the Shah’s days were numbered. And I didn’t think I wanted to get involved. One, I didn’t want to spend a third year, and two, it was quite clear they wanted to send me to somewhere close to Iran.
And so, the other options were I couldn’t spend two years in the US, and so I decided I’d spend a year in Korea, and then the second year was that US Army Research Institute [of] Environmental Medicine, which was in Natick, [MA] outside of Boston. It looks like a college campus, and it’s only about… The people who run it are military, but most of the people who actually do the research are civilians. I ended up working with people from Harvard and Boston University that second year. They have a division, undersea, and I worked with the higher altitude division. They were interested in developing a cocktail to protect you against high altitude cerebral edema, which was perfect for me. It gave me a background in the area that was very relevant to neurosurgery that neurosurgeons didn’t know about. So, it’s like, at the start of my residency I knew quite a bit about cerebral edema. That came in very useful as I was in my training.
But, so the first—I decided I’d do the two years, and went to the flight surgeon school, which was a couple months or two out on one of the bases in Alabama. And I went to Korea. And I got there, oh, it was beautiful, early October, fall. And we had a week in there, four or five days in Seoul before we went to the base, which was further south. And it was just beautiful. And Seoul was a wonderful city. But, that first week was when President Park [Chung-hee] was assassinated. And so, the country went into a complete lockdown for basically that whole year I was there. I mean, the roads had—there was real civil unrest. And it was an interesting time because Park had—I don’t know if you know about South Korea, but he basically made that country from 1960 to 19—oh well, he was assassinated in what, ’79?
JANOWSKI: Yeah, 1979.
ANDREWS: 1979, yeah. In fact, there had been several attempts. His wife got shot instead of him, or I think she was shot, a couple of years earlier. You know, he was a benevolent dictator. But they were ready to move on from that. And, so anyway, but that kind of affected—you know, we just weren’t quite as mobile, although I was a flight surgeon. We flew around. I got to know the country well, and I also met my wife to be, and that was an interesting year. But, you know, having been in a place like Palao, it was certainly less culture shock. And the [inaudible] we worked with, physicians, you know, Korean physicians, I got some good friends. And it was a very positive experience. But it was I think it was easier for me than it might have been for some people in that I’d been through things that were I guess more different than that was from usual US life.
And the second year, we came back. My wife and I got—we met actually shortly after I was there, and then ended up getting married just before we came back. And the year in Natick was a very interesting year, and I knew I was going to start my residency at Stanford right after that. So, things worked out very well. We had our first daughter in Natick, and unfortunately both our kids were babies or young kids when I was a resident, so I didn’t see as much of them. Fortunately I’ve seen a lot more of my grandkids than I saw of my own kids at that age. But, you know, I learned a lot. I mean, the military experience, it seemed like they always owed me some money, but I learned things, and certainly one thing I always enjoyed later on like at Stanford or other places where they had veterans hospitals, the vets were a great group to work with medically. You know, they had real disease and were very appreciative. That was an important part of my training and experience.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. Let’s see. And I think in terms of getting involved with the US Army, I think, I guess sort of in the wake of the Vietnam War which had concluded years before you started then, what were your attitudes towards that?
ANDREWS: I had some trepidation about, I think it was just, you know, was I going to be able to tolerate the military life? And but I think Dave Stearns in his interview had a similar situation, but he actually got sent to Vietnam, but he was a computer guy and wasn’t a front line infantry sort of person. In my case, you know, I guess I’m not a super pacifist that would have nothing to do with the military. This was partly expediency. They paid for education. I got some money, so I had an easy access to a loan or something, I might not have done it, although as it turned out, yeah, I would have been two years ahead having—I guess I’m just kind of responsible for myself, and again it was my decision. I mean, certainly if it had been during the Vietnam War, I don’t think I’d—I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have done that. I would have found some other way of getting through that if I wanted to go into neurosurgery.
But, at that time, I mean, I think you have to have a military, and certainly what I was doing on the medical end, and Korea was a good PR, you know, working with the—and most of the people I was working with were Koreans and we had cultural experience, and then second year was an academic. I mean, it could have been, like I said, I was spending most of my time with researchers, anaesthesiologists and others from Harvard and Boston University. So, it was not quite like being an infantry guy going to Iraq or something like that, or Afghanistan.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. And then also just to clarify, this is from 1979 to 1981 is when you were a flight surgeon?
ANDREWS: Yeah. Correct. And then I was in the Reserves for a few years, but I didn’t really do anything until I retired as a major, I don’t know, eight or ten years later. I mean, the Reserves were—I mean, I didn’t even do the two week thing. I guess they kind of automatically put you into that, and then I eventually told them, “Hey, you know…” Or I don’t know how it worked out. We just ended the formal relationship. I really haven’t had any dealings with the military after that, after finishing the flight surgeon in ’81. Then it was residency at Stanford after that.
JANOWSKI: Okay. So then, you did your residency at Stanford. And what period of years was that?
ANDREWS: ’81 to ’86.
JANOWSKI: Yeah, let’s see here, just kind of looking through your career accomplishments. So you spent 15 years, then, on the neurosurgery faculty of several different universities, you said?
ANDREWS: Yeah. I, when I finished my residency at Stanford, I didn’t have real—I guess I knew I wanted to go into academics, so I certainly liked the San Francisco area, and basically a decision which actually there were several of us who were finishing residencies in various specialties at Stanford. I guess the University of Arizona was expanding and there were, there was a guy in neurology, anaesthesia and orthopedics, I think it was, those three, men or women that we all were finishing our residencies. And they were offering such a—so different from Stanford. You know, they’d give you a day a week to do research, and equipment, and funding for research, and all this. At Stanford it was, man, when I came back later, you know, five years later on the faculty, I had to carve out a day, you know, work your schedule to try to squeeze in any research day, and there was certainly no funding. You had to get all your own funding.
But I went to the University of California-Davis, because the neurologists there needed a neurosurgeon. They had two neurology training programs: one in Sacramento and one in actually the San Francisco Bay Area in East Bay. And the second group was actually a much more—there was a lot of resentment in Sacramento, where in Davis—the medical center was in Sacramento but the university was in Davis, a town outside of Sacramento. The one in the San Francisco Bay Area training program had this—we were all about the same age, and these people all had NIH funding, and there were two world renowned electrophysiologists, Bob Knight and Dave Woods, and it was basically the reason I went there, I was interested in the electrical activity in the brain, and these guys were, you know, we had just a great time, did a lot of interesting research and publications, and that worked for five years, and then—and it was in the East Bay, it was in the Bay Area, so it was not—it was kind of like just moving to a different neighborhood.
Unfortunately, one of the hospitals we covered clinically in addition to the county hospital in Contra Costa County was the veterans hospital, which shows you politics and medicine. It was the summer of ’91. Well, the catchment area for this veterans hospital was all of northern California north of San Francisco, and then into southern Oregon. And yeah, I’d been at Stanford, and then the Palo Alto VA veterans hospital was a beautiful facility and great to work at, and San Francisco had the same thing. Given our catchment area was so much bigger for specialties, I mean, we did like 40 brain tumor surgeries the first year I went there, because they hadn’t had neurosurgical coverage and these guys, we were doing—[inaudible] their monitoring techniques were, I mean, we published some things that were really cutting edge at that time.
There was a lot of resentment, and they declared in the summer of ’91, it was into the first week of August, they closed the hospital, they said for seismic reasons, but it was interesting, it was just as Congress went on vacation. So, Congress didn’t know about it until September, and the hospital had been cleared out. You know, it was clearly, I think I almost forgot I had evidence that said that both UC—or California-San Francisco and Stanford were so upset that the various specialties, this UC Davis upstart VA hospital was siphoning off too much business for them, and they got the hospital to close.
So I had to decide, you know, did I want to continue with just the county hospital and maybe do some private practice, or did I want to go up to Sacramento? The chairman there was a great guy, that I thought seriously about them. But I also offered to come down to Stanford because John Adler, who was the fellow who was—I don’t know if you’ve heard about the cyberknife? It’s a radiosurgical treatment system that he developed. He was just starting that, and one, he didn’t like the—there was three or four, well, at least a couple of people who would go back and forth between the VA and the main hospital at Stanford. They’re a couple of miles apart. And he wanted to get out of that and work on this cyberknife. And so I basically took his job while he was working on that, and so I came down to Stanford, and that was my second academic position. I was there four plus years.
And then I went a couple of years to—well, at that time, there was a lot of politics in the department of neurosurgery at Stanford. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Frances Conley and Gerald Silverberg? They were two of my mentors, and they were basically dualing over the chairmanship. Yeah, she was a very progressive and talented woman, and he was kind of a—he was also pretty talented, but also quite sexist. And anyway, it was a lot of turmoil, and John Adler—I was interested in radio surgery as well, but at that point it wasn’t that developed that with John there, they didn’t need two people that had an interest in that.
And so I went to the University of New York upstate in Syracuse, and spent a couple of years there. And unfortunately, the chairman there was, I think he was just insecure, but I remember there were—another person that’s actually done very well for himself, Tim [Timothy C.] Ryken. He was another neurosurgeon that we came at the same time and we left two years later. I think he went back to Iowa, and I ended up going down to Texas Tech in El Paso to be the chair of neurosurgery there. That was an interesting, another interesting experience that I really worked hard there until, you know, my wife said after I guess I was there about three years, and she said, “You keep this up, you’re gonna die.” Because I was—I mean, it was the only trauma center from Dallas to Albuquerque, so we were much busier than any of the trauma centers in the San Francisco Bay Area. And, so now I’d spend time when I was the only one there, so you’d be working all night, trying to work daytime. So I came back.
One of my colleagues at Stanford in 2001 got in touch with me and said, “Hey, you know, we need neurosurgeons in the South Bay. Do you think—have you thought about getting into private practice?” And I was hesitant, but I think the thing that tipped it, well, two things: one, it’s kind of home, the Bay Area, but two, just before I left—I started in the ‘90s—before I left Stanford, I started working with one group at NASA Ames. We developed—well, I think it’s in the resume I gave you—a smart probe for tissue identification. That’s NASA’s name for it. And then, that was quite interesting at the time, and I was flying back to the Bay Area every couple of months for a couple days. But, you know, it was more appealing to be right there and a 20 minute drive away. So, that combined with the family reason, I thought it would be nice to come back to the Bay Area, and that’s how I ended up doing that in the latter part of 2001, and then retired in 2017 from clinical practice.
JANOWSKI: I think that takes us pretty well into the present. So, I guess just to kind of establish the timeline, so what year did you start working at NASA, then, as a medical advisor?
ANDREWS: Well, it was in the ‘90s. It kind of gradually came on. By the early ‘90s I got one of their people, an engineer helped with—we were developing a strain gauge measure for how much pressure you were retracting on the brain. And then, it evolved and we developed a relationship with other people there, and the head of the Smart Systems Group was one of those people we actually met through our kids’ day care. But, he was interested in NASA’s funding for when we would eventually go to the Mars expedition, having some sort of a robotic surgical capability since they’re not going to have medical, you know, they’re not going to have a surgeon on board, and if someone gets appendicitis or has a stroke or something, you might need a—you know, it’s pretty far off stuff. But, you know, people are working on robots, but not on the sensor end, and so that’s how this smart probe got initially funded, pretty much by NASA, and then they licensed it to a startup that unfortunately they got a great prototype, but didn’t—able to get the clinical trials to get it finalized. So, after a lot of hemming and hawing, it was licensed. It’s been licensed by a couple of companies in India for liver biopsies, and unfortunately the patent now has just run out because it was patented in the early 2000s.
But about that time when I came back a year or two later, just by serendipity in going to a conference I heard the chief of nanotechnology at NASA Ames talk about what they were doing, and they mentioned, “Oh, we can measure dopamine a quarter of a magnitude better than the existing techniques, using nanotechniques.” And so, I talked with him afterwards and that developed into a relationship that’s had a couple of NIH grants. Actually the second one was with the principal investigator was Kendall [H.] Lee, who had been at Dartmouth. And I guess we had met at some point. But he got in touch with me and he heard about what we were working on, and we had a collaborative effort; we got about a $2 million five-year grant that finished a couple years ago to work on nanotechniques for the brain machine interface, and that’s been one of my interests for a long time. So, it’s been very interesting, and I just call it my hobby, because I’m not a NASA employee, but I can work closely with, well, say these two groups in particular.
JANOWSKI: And then you said you retired in 2017?
ANDREWS: Well, from clinical practice, yeah. I mean, that’s running my office and doing neurosurgery, and I just decided it was time to close that up, and I think that’s one thing I learned from—well, I think Noam Chomsky at a very early age, in his 50s, I think he was, when he said, “Yeah, I’ll leave the linguistics to the younger people.” I think it partly was he was so taken by the need to oppose the Vietnam War. But another person that was chairman of the University of California-San Francisco, Charlie Wilson, was one of the world renowned neurosurgeons, and he retired, I think he said about 60, from clinical practice, and I think there’s something to retiring, you know, leaving before you have to leave. I mean, I didn’t want to—I’d seen a few people try to be surgeons when they’re really past their prime, and I think that shouldn’t be the case. And I had enough other… [inaudible] medical economics in the US and international neurosurgery and the brain machine. I have lots of other interests, so I’m as busy as I ever was pretty much now.
JANOWSKI: I guess we’re kind of winding down a bit. Where do you find yourself currently, then? I know that a lot of people’s plans have kind of been scrambled due to the pandemic and everything that’s going on right now.
ANDREWS: Well, I guess I feel guilty, I was talking with my colleague, guilty I’m retired. One, neurosurgery, if anything, you know, they’re less busy because you weren’t doing elective things. I mean, the dire emergencies. I’m editor of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Society’s newsletter, and our upcoming one, the president, is actually from, he’s in Milan, and he said we should make an issue just totally devoted to COVID-19, and become a world—you know, neurosurgeons around the world reporting on their experiences. And most people are, you know, they’re not doing as much as they were before by probably 60%-70%. I mean, there are some emergencies that have to be dealt with and how they relegated it to separate hospitals and tried to separate it from people who might have COVID-19.
But for me, other than kind of, quote, “sheltering in place,” and you know, I’m looking at a beautiful view of the hills here and it’s a beautiful day in California, and we’re second place and Carmel [Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA] is the closest thing to southern France, and an hour south of that is Big Sur, which is Cinque Terra in Italy without the villages and tourists. So, I kind of feel guilty that I have more time to see my grandkids and get other things done, and I guess one thing is you have to be flexible. I mean, the people who, you know, who “I gotta do this today” is, if you can’t do it, you can either moan about it or you find something else productive. I’ve chosen the latter, of course. So, you know, it’s affected me a lot less than probably most people. I kind of feel guilty about it, but I’m, one, I’m not in a field—I’m not an infectious disease person, and two, I’m in the age group where people are kind of bending over backwards to keep people like me away from hospitals because we could end up being more of a burden than a help.
JANOWSKI: Let’s see, just one last question I have for you, then, is how’s your relationship with Dartmouth now? Do you ever go back and visit campus?
ANDREWS: I haven’t been back in quite a while. I went a couple of times with, let’s see, the guy I roomed with when I was in grad school, towards the end of grad school, with the Dartmouth guy, and he and I went up once or twice for some alumni things, and then I went once, one of our, well, our second daughter was thinking of applying to Dartmouth. I don’t think she applied because our first daughter went to Claremont in southern California, which has a lot of similarities with Dartmouth being a small place, but it’s one of five—and it’s actually much smaller and the class is three or four hundred a year. But it’s with four other schools, and so they have the resources they say are at Dartmouth, you know, and it’s an hour from downtown L.A. And our older daughter had such a great time, our younger daughter, that was pretty much her choice and she went there. But I remember we went once to Dartmouth. I went once for a reunion. I met some of my med school reunion classmates. Again, this was probably 10 years ago. But I’ve certainly—with the Duncan Sleigh thing— and some other things, I think I had more contact in the last couple of years than previously.
And one of the things that came up, I think it’s worth a mention in the Class of ’68 newsletter, is people advocating for universal service, having everybody in their teens or 20s, young people serve, not necessarily military, but being in something like Peace Corps, Americorps. And I think that’s a great idea, especially now with this pending unemployment and all that. I mean, there’s so many people in the military and it has been a real plus as far as giving them training and that sort of thing that I think we’re way—I mean, if you look at all of these other things that are… whether it’s taking care of people education-wise or military or medical-wise in Native American reservations or inner city. You know, there’s all sorts of needs that could be met, and I guess I’m a firm believer in when you’re young, getting people out. I think it’s one of the biggest weaknesses in the US is that there’s a big portion of this culture that just doesn’t—or this society that doesn’t know about what’s going on in the rest of the world, and all they hear is stuff they can’t, you know, a lot of it you can’t trust. And even the more legitimate media, I mean, I’m a firm believer in going there and experiencing it yourself. So I think universal service is something that if Dartmouth wanted to champion that would certainly be one of the better things that could happen to the US. So…
But I guess I mentioned—I was going to say I’m kind of interested in this, the Vietnam Project has been going on for a number of years and I saw that you got a real cross-section of people that have gone through these interviews. And I kind of wonder, well, what’s the long-term, you know, what’s the goal or how does this evolve? I’m not sure you’re in a position to answer that, but… [laughter]
JANOWSKI: Yeah. I mean, I’d say a goal is just to keep collecting testimonies, and keep interviewing people who had experiences during the Vietnam War era, to sort of paint a picture of different people’s stories during that time. And I don’t really think there is an end to that, as long as there are people who are willing to donate their time to us like you.
ANDREWS: Yeah. Well, I guess, but quite a few of the interviews are with fairly recent graduates, right?
JANOWSKI: I think there are some now that have…
ANDREWS: Yeah, I was struck with, which I think is, I mean, I think there’s nothing wrong with getting people’s opinions, and that can be kind of a lever to, on lots of other issues. That’s why I kind of bring up this universal service. I mean, you do something that—the Vietnam War may have been something that triggered this in some of us of that generation, but we’ve got, and we’re going to have with this COVID-19, real problems, which that could address quite a few of them. I mean, I think you see what [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt did during the Great Depression. I mean, we drive down to Big Sur, and all these bridges were built during the Depression. I mean, it was a real plus to society a lot of things that happened then, and so you can turn what looks like a negative into a real positive, but not if all’s we’re going to do is kind of do business as usual. So this might be a time, I guess, if that’s—if I had hopes at Dartmouth, that might be a real plus they could offer is put their weight behind something like that, a concept that’s not that radical, but certainly could have a real beneficial effect economically and socially on the country.
JANOWSKI: Yeah. So that is all I have for you. I think this is a really great and enlightening conversation, and I very much appreciate you taking the time out of your morning to speak with us and to yeah, to donate your time to the Dartmouth Vietnam Project.
ANDREWS: Well, I’m happy to do so.
[End of Interview.]