By Willie Kocurek

kocurek“Willie, you’re going to the University of Texas.” These were Dr. Leigh Peck’s words to me on July 20, 1929, a day I’ll never forget. I had graduated as Valedictorian from Caldwell High School, and while education was a priority in my family, my options were limited. Daddy’s farm had failed and college was just out of the question. My family didn’t have a dime in the pot. I was going to work. I had to go to work.

But Dr. Peck wouldn’t hear of it. She knew of my family’s financial situation, but also knew if I didn’t go to college, I’d probably end up behind a plow. Dr. Peck understood the toll farming exacted on a person and instilled in all her students the drive to excel. Her influence did not end in the classroom and she constantly went above and beyond her duty as a teacher. She saw something in me.

The U.T. Educational Psychology Department. Dr. Peck is seated, second from the left.

The U.T. Educational Psychology Department. Dr. Peck is seated, second from the left.

I didn’t know what to expect leaving Dime Box that hot morning as we bounced along in her Model T Ford, but Dr. Peck did, or she acted as
if she did, and I took comfort in knowing she had never steered me wrong before. She showed me Austin, got me situated with the University, and introduced me to people who helped me find a job so I could cover my expenses. Dr. Peck was true to her word.

In everyone’s life, a path must be chosen. If you’re lucky, someone you respect guides you in the right direction. Dr. Peck was that someone for me. She put me in the way of possibility. And a person can’t ask for anything more than that.

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