In June of 1969 I had completed four years and all but about a half dozen of the credits I needed for a Bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering when I headed off to Memphis, TN for a summer job with Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. Toward the end of the summer my draft board in Stamford, CT sent me a notification to report for a physical examination in Madison, WI where I was attending college. My fiancee, who was picking up my mail in Madison, went to the College of Engineering Dean to get a written statement that I had not yet completed my undergraduate degree requirements and needed one more semester to do so.
My draft board apparently didn’t care that I was still a student and subsequently notified me that I was to report to the local draft board in Memphis, TN for a physical. I responded that I had only two weeks left in Memphis before a visit home (to Stamford, CT) prior to returning to school. The draft board then notified me that I was to report for a physical upon my return to Stamford, CT. I responded that I would be in Stamford only a few days before returning to school in Madison, WI. The draft board responded with another directive to report to the Madison draft board for a physical as soon as I returned to school. Knowing that the draft lottery was going to take place in the fall of 1969 I ignored the order, intending to make any decision to enlist based on the outcome of the lottery.
I, like all the other draft-eligible males on campus, sat in front of the television the night of the lottery to find out what my fate was to be. As it turned out, my birthday was the 337th pick of the lottery and I never heard from my draft board again. I completed the requirements for my Bachelor’s degree and then went on to get a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering a year and one-half later at the University of Michigan. The job market in the spring of 1971 was horrendous so I accepted the only job I was offered, working on the Trident nuclear submarine project at Knolls Atomic Laboratory in Schenectady, NY. Two years later, in a much better job market, I embarked on the career I desired in the world of commercial nuclear power.
Had I gotten a much lower lottery number I would have enlisted in the Navy, where I undoubtedly would have been selected to participate in the Navy’s nuclear power training school to become a nuclear submarine power plant operator. This would likely have led, ultimately, to a civilian career in the commercial nuclear power industry, but quite different from the one I actually experienced.