Friday, July 8th, saw the commemoration of an Army Continuing Education (ACE) legend at the Camp Humphreys’ Super Gym Pavilion picnic with Mr. Song Hui So, Education Center Administrative Assistant, bowing out after 57 years on the job, making him unofficially the longest-serving USFK employee at the time. About twenty people from the education community, along with family and friends, gathered under hot, sunny skies to bid a heartfelt farewell. Born in 1941 Mr. So started working in the Camp Humphreys education system on 30 June 1959 while yet a teenager.
“We always appreciated his support over the years for UMUC and all the other contract schools. His long institutional memory and basic fairness and integrity have served soldiers and students at Camp Humphreys for generations,” said University of Maryland University College Associate Vice-Provost Andy Boone.
“Mr. So was a teacher and the glue that held our Education Center together. He was a true friend and more like a father to me,” said Derek Jackson, Humphreys’ Education Services Specialist.
Ordinarily soft-spoken, Mr. So was not shy in speaking out about his future plans. “I’ll try to take care of myself and my wife, Seung Soon Paek. I had a stroke in September 2011. No hobbies. I enjoy walking and mountain climbing—small mountains since my stroke. Used to hike Mt. Bukhansan in Seoul before the stroke. Now only low mountains.”
As anybody who’s been affiliated long-term with civilian college education programs serving the US military overseas knows, transformation has been mind-boggling. Ashtrays on every student desk from the 50s have been replaced by omnipresent PCs. I asked him how Camp Humphreys in general and the education program in particular have changed down through the decades. “I worked in Quonset hut Building 380 in 1959. First did clerical jobs, then as educational assistant, then assistant education administrator. When we started [the program] was simple: one education advisor—later title changed to director of education, then ESO [Education Services Officer]. In 60s UMUC had only a couple of classes. Clerical work wasn’t computerized; it was all manual typewriting. Mr. John Strom was the first ESO I ever worked under in 1959.”
Amidst the pungent wafting scent of grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and airy chitchat floating over the pavilion, he reminisced over his long and remarkable career spent serving the US military. “I’ll miss nothing about job. My regret: I should have taken better care of myself, my body.” He then added with a wry grin: “Should’ve retired a little bit earlier.”
Asked if he had any final words, he smiled and with a gleam in his eye belying his 75 years simply said, “I’m happy now as a retired man!”
“I don’t have words to express how much Mr. So’s service to the organization over the past 57 years will be missed. We’ll truly miss him. That says it all,” said Geraldine Hicks, installation ESO.
Says it all, indeed.
UMUC Associate Professor Ron Roman can be seen as Admiral Forrest Sherman in “Operation Chromite” featuring Liam Neesom as General Douglas MacArthur. It premieres July 27th.