Dirty Words

The title of Tom Wolfe’s 1940 novel “You Can’t Go Home Again” has entered the public vocabulary as a way of saying that the passing of time prevents a person from ever really being able to “go home again.”

I put that notion to the test this weekend by returning to my first academic home, Kansas State University, where I served as a professor and administrator for 16 years before coming to Elon as founding dean of the School of Communications in 2001.

Sorry, Tom Wolfe. I think you can successfully go home again, or at least it felt that way for me.

In my national role as 2010-11 ASJMC President, I was invited to speak at the 100th anniversary banquet celebrating Kansas State’s journalism school, which is the third-oldest in the nation. (The School of Journalism at Missouri is the oldest, formed two years earlier.)

While there, I enjoyed seeing former colleagues and former students. One former student remembered the time when I stood in front of her media law class and recited the seven “dirty words” that were banned from the broadcast airwaves. Our textbook had chickened out and not printed them, and this is before the Internet days when a student could do a quick Google search. So when I was asked what were the seven words, I recited them matter-of-factly.

Nancy Chartrand, the former student who reminded me of this classroom moment, says she and a few friends thought about raising their hands and saying, “Excuse us, Professor Parsons, we missed that last one — the one that began with an F. Could you repeat that one please?” But she says they, too, chickened out and the moment passed.

A beautiful day for a win over UCLA

The day after the 100th celebration events, I returned to Kansas State’s football stadium to watch the Wildcats defeat UCLA, 31-22, amid more than 50,000 purple-clad fans. As this picture shows, I was wearing purple, too.

I’ve decided that you can go home again, at least for a memorable weekend.

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