It was 1975, the end of Maisie Sparks’ sophomore year. The time had come to settle on a major — and career path — and enter one of the UI’s colleges.
And the winner was ... the College of Communications, where she’d study journalism. “Not that I was passionate about being a newspaper journalist with its stressful daily deadlines,” she says. “Journalism just seemed like a reasonable choice for someone who liked to write and had no aptitude for math or science.”
There was just one problem.
“I didn’t get accepted into the college,” Sparks says. “My name was number 64 on the list posted outside the college’s admissions office and only 60 students were admitted each year. What would I do now?
“I decided to talk to the admissions officer. Certainly, there was a loophole somewhere. Perhaps I could play the race card. No luck. The college already had its quota of minority entrants. That wasn’t going to work.
“So, I asked, being the inquiring reporter I was pretending to be, ‘What are the chances of four students choosing a different college and not coming here?’ ‘Well,’ he boasted, ‘we’re one of the top journalism schools in the nation. Usually, students who are offered entrance accept. It’s unlikely that four students would decline.’
“Hopes dashed, I started walking around campus. I saw a pay phone, dropped some coins in its slot and called my mother. ‘Mom, I need you to pray for me,’ I admitted. ‘I didn’t get accepted into the journalism program and I don’t know what to major in.’
“Since leaving for college, I had only called home for money or for someone to pick me up from the bus station or for some more money. This was not the first time I had needed prayer while away at school. But it was the first time I was aware that I needed prayer and didn’t know how to pray.
“But I knew my mother knew how to ‘get a prayer through.’ Memories from my childhood were filled with my mother praying on her knees, praying while washing the dishes, praying while folding clothes. She was a pray-er and would know what to say to God to get me into journalism school. So, I asked my mother, ‘please pray for me.’ She did.
“A few days later, I got a call from the admissions officer. Four students had decided not to enter the college. I was next on the list. If I wanted to attend, I could. I did.
“As I hung up the phone, for the first time in my life, with deep humility, immense awe, and extreme gratitude, I prayed, ‘Lord, teach me to pray — like my mother.’
“He did. And, that’s another story.”