Roanoke professors share their personal stories

Two of our foreign-born faculty are featured in Storycorps, a popular oral history project and one of the largest in the country.

Dr. Joshua Rubongoya and Professor Inez Good told their personal stories to Storycorps recently. Storycorps is one of the largest oral history projects in the country and brought its recording booth to the Roanoke Valley this fall.

Storycorps is often heard on NPR, and each interview is recorded for the participants and archived with the Library of Congress.

Rubongoya, professor of political science, was interviewed by his son, Kenneth. Rubongoya is a native of Uganda and talked about his childhood there. He was the oldest son of 15 children, noting that the family could form its own soccer team. Rubongoya talked about the British grammar school he attended in Entebbe. His father took education very seriously.

"America was always a dream in my mind. I thought it was just glass and diamonds; I always imagined America to be the last step to heaven," Rubongoya said. "When I got a Fulbright scholarship to come to the U.S., I knew then I was just a step from heaven when I arrived in the United States. I didn't even think there was dirt in the U.S. I thought everything was glass and skyscrapers and all the wonderful imagery we had via the movies."

When he arrived at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1984, he was picked up by some female students from American University. He described the culture shock he experienced when he met these young college women dressed in shorts and tank tops. "Coming out of a conservative culture in Uganda, I had never seen anything like that before," he said. "I had never seen a woman's knees!"

He also talked about taking his sons back to Uganda to meet their extended family for the first time. In the cab from the airport to the family home, one of his sons said, "Dad, how come there are so many black people here?"

"I was stunned by the question," Rubongoya said, "because I wasn't expecting it, and then finally I said, 'This is Africa, son. Welcome home!' It took me aback for a while because Jonathan was realizing for the first time that he wasn't a minority.

Listen to Rubongoya's full recording.

John Long '89, senior lecturer in history, interviewed Good, associate professor of modern languages, emerita. In addition to teaching at the College, Long is the director of the Salem Museum. Good talked about growing up in Germany under the rule of Adolph Hitler. Good was in high school in Nuremberg at the beginning of World War II.

"We went to school, and at night we went to the air raid shelter," Good said. She said they had no activities or socializing because of the war.

Hitler came through Nuremberg by train when he went to Italy to meet with Mussolini. She saw him on the train as he went by.

"We were young and impressionable and thought this was all wonderful," Good said. "The evil things didn't come through yet at that time."

She describes being on a train when it was attacked by American planes. She worked some during the war as a Red Cross nurse, which was a part of the military. When the Americans arrived, she became a prisoner of war.

Later, Good heard about a program to study the American school system and was sent to America to study English and the educational system. Roanoke was her third stop in America, and she encountered a "whole new world," which included segregation.

In Roanoke, Good met Sam Good, a theater professor, as a blind date. She was invited by the American Association of University Women to be a guest at May Day. She told them she had no dress or date, but her hosts offered her both. "And that's how I met my husband," Good said.

Eventually, both taught at Roanoke. "And as far as I was concerned, life began for me, finally." Good said. "My husband had gone through a similar experience here … in the Depression. So we had a very similar childhood experience of not having anything. We were both very grateful of gradually working for everything we owned later on. We were not spoiled in other words."

In talking about Roanoke College, she talked about the small classes, strict rules and the close community. "I counted the presidents since the beginning of Roanoke College, since 1842, and there were 11 presidents to this day, and I knew seven of them," she said.

Released: December 19, 2008