Mike Condren Memoir (Draft)


My father was a banker, starting his career with Peoples Bank & Trust Company in Van Buren, AR as a bookkeeper and part-time teller. He worked his way up through the ranks there to Assistant Cashier, then Cashier, and then Vice President. In 1964 he moved to First Federal Savings and Loan in Ft. Smith as Vice President. He worked his way through the ranks to Executive Vice President and retired as President of the company then called First America Savings & Loan. My mother was a housewife until I was in the second grade at which time she took a job as a sales clerk in the children's department of the Boston Store in Ft. Smith. After some time, she moved to the Credit Department of the Boston Store where she worked for several years before taking a job at Peoples Bank as a bookkeeper. After several years she took a job as bookkeeper at Eads Bros. Furniture in Ft. Smith.

Upon completing graduate school, I took a job as the Chemistry Department at The College of the Ozarks in Clarksville, AR. I taught all of the chemistry classes and my first 2 falls taught the computer language Fortran. During the third fall I taught Physical Science. After that I created a Chemistry Major program so that I taught only chemistry. I served as head of the department and took care of all of the functions needed by the department.

In the fall of 1976, I decided to build my layout a home with provisions for a family, mine or the next owner in Clarksville. I built a garage with a 3 bedroom house attached. The garage had heat and air, cable TV, an inter-com to answer the front door, and a work bench area which included space for my washer and drier on which I could set up my darkroom as there were NO windows. I moved my layout from my folks house in Ft. Smith into this garage. 

After several years I was appointed to the Library Committee. A year later, a new Head Librarian was appointed. She seemed very interested in developing the library holdings. After several months, I asked her if she liked pizza. Our first date was at the local Pizza Hut. After 5 weeks of dating, we attended the installation of the wife of the CofO Campus Chaplain at the First Presbyterian Church in Dardanelle, AR. After we returned to her apartment, I asked her to be my wife. This was just before the house was finished in the spring of 1977.  Jan got to pick out the lights for the kitchen, everything else was done by this time.

Our home at 14 Sherwood Drive in Clarksville
We agreed to be married "After the Manner of Friends" as she was a member of the Dallas Monthly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) through the Little Rock Preporitory Meeting. That meant that we had to be passed by the "Clearness Committee of the Little Rock Preparity Meeting of the Dallas Monthly Meeting". Dean of Students Bryden Moon, former Professor of Air Science at the University of Arkansas contacted his former colleague at UofA for his legal opinion concerning such a wedding in the State of Arkansas. The Attorney General of the State of Arkansas, William Jefferson Clinton, expreessed an opinion that such a wedding in the State of Arkansas would not be legal as the Clerk of Meeting could not sign the Marriage License. As a result we met with my pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Ft. Smith. After examining us he agreed to attend the service and speak in such a manner that he would be willing to sign the License.

Trying to further my career, in the spring of 1980, I approached Dr. Wally Cordes about working with him in his X-ray lab and learn crystallography. We moved into an apartment in Fayetteville for the summer with Jan working in the UofA Mullins Library and me working for Wally in Chemistry. I returned in the summer of 1981.

My career at The College of the Ozarks had pretty well run its course. I had interviewed a couple of times, once in Iowa at Central College and once in New York at Eisenhower College. I kept looking for a new position and applied at several more institutions.

One morning in the spring of 1981, while we were getting ready to go to work, I noticed that Jan was not breathing. I grabbed her around her waste and gave her a strong, sudden hug. That got her started to breathe again. I called for an ambulance as I was scheduled for my first knee surgery and could not assist her. She went to the hospital in an ambulance, and I followed. They ran some tests. While we waited for the results, one of my student in Organic Chemistry came into the examining room and asked about the exam scheduled for the day. He was head of ambulance services at Johnson County Hospital. While we were talking, in walks the doctor and says that he has a prescription for prenatal vitamins. We swore the student to secrecy. That afternoon Jan wore her "Experiment with a Chemist" T-shirt to the faculty meeting to let people know our news.

We made plans to return to Fayetteville so that I could continue my training in X-ray crystallography with Dr. Cordes. This time we "house sat" for faculty doing vacations, two different homes. We had a student living in our house in Clarksville. I got a call to collect a water sample for analysis at a gas well north of Ozark, AR. We went to Clarksville and then made the trip into the wilds of the Ozark National Forrest for this sample. While working in the lab, I got a letter from the Academic Dean giving me 5 options for changing the grades of some foreign students who I had been caught plagiarising extra point reports. THAT WAS THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMELS BACK! I chose option 6 and decided to resign. Jan was 7 months pregnant. I did not have a job offer, but we could not put up with cheating! We made the decision to quit.

That night I got a call from the Acting Chair of the Chemistry Department at Christian Brothers College to come for an interview. (Did you say GOD was taking care of us.) I made the trip for the interview. I interviewed with the Acting Chair Br. James Albert Okers, the Chair of the School of Sciences & Math Rel Morgan, and Academic Dean Br. Louis Althaus. Br. James Albert made a tentative offer, contingent on the Chair of the Department approving the offer. The Chair, Dr. Lyle Wescott, called Dr. Cordes and must have gotten a glowing review.

Jan and I had a train meeting in St. Louis. After it was over, we drove to Memphis to meet with Helen Overton our Realtor. She showed us 5 homes, 3 in the same neighborhood. We ended up signing a purchase agreement on one of those three, a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home on Northwood Drive.

At the end of my work with Dr. Cordes, we returned to Clarksville to pack for a move to Memphis. We were planning to see a realtor in Clarksville when I got a call from their office. They knew of our need to sell the house and had an offer! (GOD at work again!)

That summer was something. We moved to a house in Fayetteville. After 6 weeks, we moved to another house in Fayetteville. We moved back to Clarksville. We then had to move into storage on the second floor of a store in downtown Clarksville as our home in Memphis was not ready for occupancy. We moved our clothes into a dorm on the CBU campus. After a few days of that, our realtor, Helen Overton, offered us her basement as a place for us to live for the 2 weeks until our home would be ready for us to move our furniture. We then returned to Clarksville to load our furniture and move it to Memphis.

We had picked a near perfect neighborhood in Memphis. As we were unloading the neighbors came with food and drink to welcome us to the neighborhood. There we had the best neighbors we have ever had.

On Sunday night Nov. 1, Jan started complaining about back pain. She made herself a double recipe of tapioca pudding. Finally we called the doctor's office and headed to Baptist East Doctor's building. The doctor examined Jan and suggested that we head to the delivery room as fast as possible with me pushing her in a wheel chair. Virginia was born shortly after Jan got prepped.

Virginia was tested every hour while in the hospital because her mother had the extra pudding the night before. When Jan and Virginia got home, there was a "Its a Girl" sign in the front yard. There was an alcove in the master bedroom where my bassinet fit perfectly. Virginia went to sleep most nights to the sound of a steam engine from a cassette tape of mine.

When it came time for Virginia to be baptized at Evergreen Presbyterian Church, my friend and colleague Elder David Jeter, a professor at Southwestern College, later Rhodes College, stood up for us.

Jan interviewed for an opening at Memphis/Shelby County Public Library and Information Center. She began work there in Jan. 1982 and spent the next 16 years working in various departments.

With the new job, we had to find child care for Virginia. We were extremely fortunate to discover a wonderful woman who kept Virginia and another child or two in her home during working hours. Big Jenny as we called her took care of Virginia until Virginia was ready for K-4 at McLean Baptist Preschool.

At first Jan and I attended the History Sunday school class at Evergreen. But something was missing for Jan. At The College of the Ozarks she had participated in the Ozarks Area Theology Society which was composed of area Presbyterian preachers and her. After a few years she joined another Sunday school class.

In 1985 Jan became pregnant with our son. She was due Dec. 10. However, Matthew as he would become known, has never gotten into a hurry. On the morning of Jan. 3, 1986, I dropped Jan off at Methodist Central Hospital, then dropped Virginia at Idlewilde Presbyterian Preschool, and finally returned to the hospital. They started medication to induce delivery. After 8 hours Matt was born. The doctor who was interested in trains and knew that I was interested announced Matt's delivery by saying "You have a little engineer".

The family time at the hospital was much more pleasant at Methodist Central in that they had a party for the family, including 4-year old Virginia, including sparkling grape juice.

One of the members of that class was the new Academic Dean of Memphis Theological Seminary. I finally convinced her to go visit him and he convinced her to begin a program of Master of Arts in Religion. Sometime later while I was visiting my parents, I got a call from her after church. She told me that she had gotten the "Call" and was going to change to a Master of Divinity degree and become a minister.

The kids both attended Snowden Elementary and Middle School. Virginia attended White Station High School and graduated. She then began college at Christian Brothers University. Matt attended Central High School through the first semester of his Junior year. He completed his high school via home schooling. He then attended college at Christian Brothers University and earned a BS in Computer Engineering and then a BS in Computer Science.




This page was designed and is maintained by Mike Condren. If you have materials
that you would like to contribute, contact me at mcondren@cbu.edu