Education: A Place for Purpose

At 40, Chief Machinist's Mate Richard McKenna was the very model of a seagoing sailor; he had joined the Navy during the Depression, served 22 years on everything from a river gunboat in China to a destroyer off Korea. In 1953 McKenna suddenly deep-sixed the old salt image. Stumbling on Walden, he felt that his mind had been "in a deep freeze," decided to retire and become a writer. An old skipper charted his new course: go to the University of North Carolina, a good place for "a man with a purpose."

In 2½ years at Chapel Hill, Sailor McKenna sped through...

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