George Wilkerson | Graduated in 1964
Technical Writer & Editor (Retired)
Posted on Sun, 15 Sep, 2013
Upon completing my doctorate in Community College Education at the University of Texas in Austin, I was hired as the first academic dean of the newly formed Austin Community College and spent four years "deaning" before I realized that was not my calling. After four years as an administrator, I returned to classroom teaching and was settling in when I got a call from an old friend. He needed someone to head a writing team to produce documents for computer operations. The catch? The work was with Shell Oil in Nigeria. Reluctantly, I took the job. Although the motivation was financial (the pay was extremely good and the contract included room and board and a spending allowance), I soon found that I was more comfortable with doing technical writing. (I had always been a sci-fi/science nerd). This was 1980 and the home computer business was taking off. I spent the next year writing user documents for the project's desktop computers and plotters, then returned to Austin, where Michael Dell's company was taking off. I joined their Technical Writing Department and thereafter defined myself as a Technical Writer and Editor. In subsequent years I worked for companies like I.B.M. and General Electric and before I retired, worked for Lockheed-Martin at the Knolls Atomic Laboratory in upstate New York. (Knolls is where all of the operating manuals for the nuclear fleet are maintained.)
I majored in English because I wanted to be a writer and so I became one, though not in the way I had envisioned it. My Masters in Playwriting from Syracuse Unversity gave me the background to produce comedy skits which are still performed by the Esther's Follies troupe in Austin and the Education Ph.D. from Texas serves me well as I continue to teach as an adjunct at a Columbia State Community College where I now live, in Tennessee. But it's the solid background in composition that I got at Geneseo that paid off in ways beyond the financial. I still do Technical Writing (for the Army), comedy writing (for my own pleasure), and prose pieces for magazines. To those who scoff at being an English major (just listen to Garrison Keillor sometime) I suggest they learn to "think out of the box." That's another skill I learned at Geneseo.