Gale E. Vrtiak

University of Oklahoma


I was a member of the graduating class of 1995 from the University of Oklahoma. Now mind you, not in Norman, Oklahoma, actually not even in the United States. I, mean, their overseas program in Germany.

I had already received my Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Maryland-European Division, and a Masters’ degree in Education from Boston University-European Division.

Now, I am sure you are asking, why would someone go to the other side of the world to get her degrees? Well, simply; my husband’s employment brought us to Germany in December of 1982 for 18 months, which became in time 15 years.

Can you imagine, a family of five (two adults & three daughters under the age of 10) arriving in Frankfurt, Germany at Christmas with two suitcases apiece, two large Dobermans (I refused to leave them behind) and their kennels?! We were quite a sight.

Adjustment was a struggle, mainly for me. The children adapted faster than I did, because they had school and became friends with many children; American & German, quickly.

I did not know the language nor did I have a job yet. Back in Virginia, I was a Radiologic Technologist, but within the Army, at that time, civilians were not hired for such a position.

I chose to go back to school to finish the degree I had started at the Northern Virginia Community College. I already had an A.S. from Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts. But, I craved more.

My goal, really, was not the degree, but the freedom to expand my mind and “get out of the house” while doing something I have always loved; school!

I finished my B.S. from Maryland, mind you; it only took me 14 years. I, just kept going; even though, everyone thought I had enough degrees; and by now, I had begun working as an Alcohol/Drug Counselor in Mannheim/Heidelberg.

We were moved in 1993 from Heidelberg to Augsburg in Bavaria. Several events had occurred in the family; my father died, and then my mother-in-law, and soon after my father-in-law. Education became my “escape”.

I drove to the Education Center on Kriese Kaserne and enrolled in the Human Relations Program at the University of Oklahoma.

Is that end of the story, “not by a long shot”.?

I could not have asked for more from the instructors who came from Oklahoma to teach in Augsburg. Not only were they helpful to me, whenever I needed anything, but they understood the complications of life which can sometimes interfere with getting the requirements completed. By the end of two years, we had come friends; classmates and instructors. We became a family as well as a team.

Encouragement from several instructors in regard to my innate ability to write; led me to succeed further with a perfect score on my Composition Examination for my degree. Striving for “the best that was in me” was due a lot to the University of Oklahoma’s “mighty fine” professors.

The instructors were there for one semester, but their imprint in my life today still remains. The atmosphere they invoked made it easier to learn and find the initiative to move forward. I learned from the instructors an important “tidbit”; my education is important to me, but there is importance of everyone else’s education in my future.

These instructors shared their “pitfalls” and their “glories” with all of us to insure we understood we were not alone in our quest, and it was alright to embrace the future.

Since returning to the United States in 1997, and several more moves-stateside; I have taken my education and experience to envelop those people of various cultural, economic, ethnic, language, or racial backgrounds using my past educational programs as well as life’s knowledge. The ultimate goal being to extend to them the teachings found thru the dedication, support, and motivation one receives from Professors, particularly those of U. of Oklahoma.

When I teach or counsel today, whether it is in a setting of adults, high school AP seniors or therapy, I strive to reincarnate the lessons I have already learned into the minds of those seeking a better place in their lives.

My University of Oklahoma professors showed me that having an education is a lifelong consolation to oneself. It is a pleasure every day. Being educated is an end in itself. It sets you apart from most of the people on the planet.

Today, I realize I have more yesterdays than tomorrows, but having the guidance of so many special Professors; I realize I can pass on the ideas about the dreams we have, the wonders we knew and experienced, and we were fulfilling all of this thru life and our education.

Thank you; Professors of the University of Oklahoma.

Dr. Gale E. Vrtiak, RT (retired), MAC, PsyD, LPC, BCPC, DAPA, CHAIS