It isn't often I can use "Mr. Ed" and University of Pennsylvania in the same blog, let alone in the same sentence. Not only dare I do it, but I do it with joy and humor. Because both of these icons share an award-winning musician as well as a warm place in this writer's heart. And both of these icons, as well as the musician they share, are especially meaningful to me at this time of year and this time of my life.
Okay, I've kept you in suspense long enough. "Mr. Ed"? Penn? Do go on...
First, some explication. Since May of 2011, I have been delightedly employed part-time at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, PA. As the result of some serious soul-searching and an early "bucket list," I decided to follow my dream and work with animals in some capacity. While Penn was on my "A" list, I was warned by a friend: "It is easier to get accepted to Penn than it is to get a job at Penn." Although I applied elsewhere, I never took my eye off the prize. And never quite lost my awe of the Ivy League institution that finally accepted me.
Which is how I came to be a recipient of Penn's monthly newsletter "Almanac." Which is how I came to be acquainted with the name Ray Evans and the works his family has donated to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. Which is how I can use "Mr. Ed" and University of Pennsylvania in the same sentence.
You see, Ray Evans is a 1936 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. That's where he met Jay Livingston, a 1937 graduate. That's where the two men began a songwriting career spanning three decades: a career which garnered them three Academy Awards ("Buttons and Bows," "Mona Lisa," and "Que Sera Sera"). Mr. Evans and Mr. Livingston also penned the theme songs for popular television shows, the most notable being "Bonanza" and, my favorite, "Mr. Ed."
So, where am I going with this? Well, when I read the article, I immediately imagined Mr. and Mrs. Evans, parents of Ray, at the dinner table one evening, somewhat flabbergasted. "You mean to tell me we are paying for an Ivy League education so you can write jingles?" Somehow, Ray's choice of a career amidst the economics of Depression-era America must have stymied his folks.
But Ray Evans followed his dream. His story and his string of successes have endeared Penn to me forever. It has taken me almost a lifetime to follow a dream. That dream has led me, albeit part-time, into an Ivy League community which often leaves me awestruck. While others may emulate legions of stellar Wharton School grads, Penn Med surgeons, or even Penn Vet clinicians, I will cherish the Penn icon who stole my heart: Ray Evans, the man behind "Mr. Ed."
PS: Evans and Livingston also wrote my favorite Christmas song: "Silver Bells." Have a listen:
Happy Holidays to all!