Thirty-two years ago today I passed the grueling four-hour oral examination to obtain my Masters in Education degree. I’d already completed my 192-page thesis, and the final step in qualifying for my degree was passing “the orals.”

It was my own personal Spanish Inquisition. Four university professors sat across the table from me, and a couple “impartial observers,” also university employees, sat behind me. They were not there to take active part, but to take notes to make sure all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed in case I challenged the outcome.

After nearly four hours, I was asked to wait outside the room while the professors discussed my work. As I stepped into the hallway, all I wanted was to collapse from the sheer stress of the morning’s activities.

But there in the hall were 15 or 20 of my summer dorm buddies, all anxiously holding their collective breath. What a show of support! I hadn’t asked them to come, but all masters’ candidates examination dates, rooms, and times were publically posted in the main lobby of the building, so they knew when it was my turn in the hot seat.

Roberta handed me a paper sack. “Here,” she said, “drink this.”

There was one can of beer in that brown paper bag. The top of the sack was twisted several times, and the only reason I opened the bag was to see what brand the beer was. The rules were a little more flexible back then. No one gave it much thought that she’d brought alcohol into a public building.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll save it for later—I can’t drink it before the results come in.”

That beer, an Anheuser Busch Natural Light, still wrapped in the non-descript crinkled old brown paper bag, remains unopened to this day. A constant reminder that there are still plenty of things to do and goals to accomplish “before the results come in.”