Interview with Mohsen Rad, 11/30/2016

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Andrew Fritz, Interviewer | uwocs_Mohsen_Rad_11302016.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |

0:00

AF: Alright, I am Andy Fritz I am here with.

MR: Mohsen H. Rad

AF: We are in Polk Library, it is November 30th, and we will begin the interview.

AF: We will keep it simple to start, where to did you grow up?

MR: In Tehran, Iran.

AF: What was life like going up?

MR: Life was very good those days, because the United States were allied, a good friend to us and we were a very rich country; oil. So we used to be very friendly to US government and US people and we had sent so many students to US for education. But, debt was continuing until the 1979 revolution occurred. So, 1:00we had to cut, when I say we I mean Iran not me - we had to cut the relationship with the US and so far the embassies of both countries are closed and MR: Obama is trying his best to reopen the relationship with Iran. But, we have to see what this new president's decisions. Otherwise we love the United States and we love our country but sometimes politics take you the wrong way.

AF: What were some of your daily duties growing up?

MR: In United States or back home?

2:00

AF: Back Home.

MR: Just go to school, because I graduated in 1960, before my government sent me here for higher education, just study, and be very quiet. We didn't have bad things like smoking, drinking those things, because the government and the family did not permit us to do that. And of course we came back to the US we have to do what Iran was do. So, all together the culture of that country was different and the culture of the US is different. But, I love both of them 3:00that's why I have been here for a long time. But over there, just go to school and do the homework and less problems because there was no smoking, drinking and no bad things.

AF: This is kind of a hard question to ask, what were the communities like? Is it like the US where we have neighbors, like what was that like in Iran?

MR: It's very hard to explain the difference between communities in Iran and communities in America, because you would just grow up in a family and uh community did not mean to get involved with the neighbors things or see what 4:00they do, very private life that I can tell you because over there because I only lived from elementary school to high school. Very young teenagers went to school, when you're very young teenagers you don't pay attention to what is going on. We had to stay with the family, no problems because no bad communities or bad people; quite different than the United States.

AF: What were your parents like?

MR: My parents, my mother was very good Muslim, she used to teach Koran, but no 5:00involvement in politics and religion. This moment I am talking to you, it is something else. Everything is together, if you're leaving a Muslim country you have to go to mosque and pray, you have to keep quiet, no criticism, and then other than that you get in trouble. But here, you are in free country and say whatever you want as long as you obey the law. It is two different communities and it is very hard to explain because I was only there for my teenage years. My father was also a teacher, a community teacher to talk to people to obey and be 6:00good person, this is can remember. But, all together one thing I can tell you for sure, there is not similarity in community with any other countries, even Europe.

AF: Did your parents ever impose values?

MR: Yes, my father also told me, live somehow that when you grow up, when you 7:00get in elder age, do not need anything from anybody including your children because you have to live somehow that you do not need anything from anybody because if you ask they may not be able to help out, My mother always said be good nice boy, good person help others, but they couldn't talk about politics because there were not politics those days. They were good people those days, and I lived in a family of 6 brothers, 1 sister and I am the youngest. My older 8:00brother is in San Francisco, California. He is a banker and his wife is a doctor and his daughter is a pharmacist. They do not want to go back home, because they love it in the US, like me.

AF: Were there any sports?

MR: Soccer, just like US you have Football, soccer is the main sport. Also basketball, I was a member of the UWO team in Albee hall, 61.

AF: Do you have a wife our kids?

MR: Yes, my wife is no longer living, but I have two children. My daughter I 9:00brought from home since she was 4 years old. I went home after graduation for some time. I brought her here, she grew up here and graduated from UWO with two degrees. Lately, they ask her if she goes to college nursing, she's graduating in next few weeks as a RN. My son is in Milwaukee and he campaigns for democrats, and I do not talk to him…. Just kidding. Politics you want to know? I am a very conservative republican, I was very close to my head of country and 10:00I like this next president best, this man is very good.

AF: What was the hardest part adjusting to America?

MR: Language! I still have problems, English is not an easy language, so when I came here I came into a ward, I remember in 1961 I had to take two courses where I attended the class for no credit. After, one year, sophomore year I started to learn English, that was a difficulty in language, but that was good for me 11:00because I came from that country to this country and I loved it.

AF: There was no preparation prior to coming here?

MR: No, we had to send application and I happened to be chosen, I did not even know what Oshkosh was, and I came to New York and left to Oshkosh by greyhound. There was a dormitory here that is not here anymore; Clements hall. That was next to the union, last year they broke it down for new building. I lived there freshman year. Then I started to learn English and be interested to take other 12:00courses, and I appreciate that.

AF: For the application, was it just for Oshkosh? Or was it to come to America in general?

MR: No, I had a family/friend and ask him to go to Dempsey hall and they put my application there and then send me an acceptance and I got it back.

AF: Going back, what were schools like in Iran?

MR: Schools were different, there is no schools with men and women together, no 13:00problems because we grew up like that. But, University couldn't help it.

AF: Was that a bit of a surprise?

MR: Yes, there is not only school, but people do many things here; you know what I mean. Open society, and all together I love it and I have nothing against it. It is a part of your culture.

AF: Was it ever awkward if you got left alone with a girl in class?

14:00

MR: Here, no in fact I had a Girlfriend senior year, and she came home with me for a few months but moved back again. But no, we came here and saw the society and you go home and tell them this is American, so you have to take it or leave it.

AF: Did you parents feel school was important?

MR: I did not get your point.

AF: Was going to school very important?

MR: Yes, education was very important, we could get application to go to England, Europe for education because we were not improved as a community for 15:00education. They ask us to get a higher education, we had 40 students from Iran.

AF: Was it hard to leave your family, or did they come with?

MR: We had communication from the phone, and we could go back every other year to visit them in summertime. They had money to spend for those things.

AF: Was it more of your idea to come here?

MR: It was my Government Idea, head of country had a good relationship with 16:00Washington, because he was educated in Europe. Anyhow, they had communication with others; president and Iran to bring some students here (US) for education.

AF: Were you interested in college at the time?

MR: At the beginning no, homesick and we did not know what to do, but After 4 months we started to get used to living in the United States.

AF: Did you have an idea of what you wanted to study here?

17:00

MR: No, yes chemistry! I came here for chemistry. [inaudible.] But sometimes, oh! I had a professor, I lived in his house sophomore year on Algoma; on other side of Halsey. He used to talk to me when I was home, he rented his room to me, professor Chang, from china. He got me an apartment and he got me interested [inaudible].

AF: Did you know the group of exchange students with you, was it random?

18:00

MR: No it was all random, from different directions.

AF: Did you form relationships with them?

MR: No, we were just friends who went to school. We got together every weekend to make food and talk, every Saturday. But, we were very busy with school here so we didn't have time for those things.

AF: Did you know anything about UWO?

MR: Honestly no, we came from greyhounds from NY and we went to office and they said yes, we are waiting for you. Your rooms are in Clements hall dormitory. 19:00[inaudible]. From time to time I used to eat in Union, we had a small tiny room. After that we got used to it, and when I graduated I became American, or something like that (Laughs).

AF: Was the uncertainty nerve wracking for you?

MR: No.

AF: You were just ready to….

MR: Oh yes, you are talking to easy man.

AF: Think of first day at UWO, what were your impressions and thoughts?

MR: My impressions were that I did not know what I am doing, very very easy. I 20:00was confused, changed that community to this community. But, from time to time when I talked home on phone and wrote a letter asking for money and they always tell me to take it easy, changing a community takes time. One of my brothers then came to New York and we had communication and he was telling me to take it easy, study from time to time and you'll be ok, no problems.

AF: Your brothers and sister right? They're spread out throughout the US for the most part right?

MR: Two of them, one sister.

21:00

AF: How is your relationship now? Do you see each other?

MR: No, they're home. I haven't seen them for many years, but I talk to them on the phone. But no, some of them are very old because I am the youngest in the family and two of them are gone. Talking about those days, but now only one brother in San Francisco in 97 a banker I talk to them and ask if "what can I do for you, anything you need."

AF: What were your classes like, do you remember anything specific?

MR: My classes, I had 36 credits in history, 36 credits in computer science. I 22:00knew all the teachers because I was in the same category for 5 years, I graduated after 5 years. Because the first year I had to take audit course, to learn English; very hard for me. Sometimes I go to class; imagine I'm 19 years old, and teachers are talking in American accent. But I had to listen and identify any problems and ask him to explain, time to time I could teach them.

AF: How was your first semester grade wise, did you have grades?

MR: Yes, after that semester of audit courses, let me be honest with you; I had 23:00to study for an A in order to get a C. But if you want to present it, you lose it writing I had to give a book report, and I spent so much time but it is very obvious, but in my country studying at a university with my language I'd probably get A+. But here, you cannot help it. They know you have talked to them but if you want to take the test, you get short time, 55 minutes and then I pass all courses, otherwise I wouldn't have graduated. But grade wise, only passing; 24:00B's and C's.

AF: Was it the language barrier? Or more of the content being taught?

MR: Both, yes. It is very hard for you to understand what I am talking about. It is pretty hard thing to do, very hard. New language, nothing is easy but you have to be a smart guy. But, I did not give up. And the teachers knew that to. Very hardworking, but they couldn't give me a free grade so I had to study. All Together not too bad, grades were passing B and C and sometimes an A. But, in my 25:00country with my language, all A's.

AF: What was your hardest class that you could remember?

MR: Mathematics, Oh my god.

AF: Still is very difficult.

MR: Because I didn't like math, and I had to take the course and after that, geology. Because I had to take one 5 credit course otherwise I wouldn't graduate. Other than that, hard classes no problem, except mathematics. I think C-, we had to take two courses something like that.

AF: You had mentioned the professor you stayed with, the kind of changed your major?

26:00

MR: Yes, he changed my life!

AF: Were there any other outside thoughts that persuaded you for political science?

MR: Yeah, I lived with him in his house, he liked me. I'm talking about your age [inaudible]. After suppertime, he come to my room or I go to him and his wife and after a while I thought he was interesting and subject was interesting. Then I became interested, in political science. And then I had to take history courses in order to understand. For my 4th year, I ended up with 75 credits and I was very good at them. But at the beginning, he changed; he didn't mean to, 27:00but I came here as a chemistry major because I was very good at my high school, but you never know.

Studying very hard, and then after I got Bachelor of Science degree from here, it is interesting for you. But I've been home and worked for government, but there was some discolorship going on if some people graduated from US would like to get their master's degree. So yes, I signed for it and passed the course; I was sent to Pakistan, they had one year of study to get a Master of Science 28:00degree. I got a Master of Science degree from there, and then I came back home and I was a teacher for a couple of years. So this is it, and I have degree from another country.

AF: Were you more interested in American political science?

MR: International relations, that means right now. I know why you voted for this new president, and I'm not talking about you. Because, you have to understand and talk and see what he is talking about. I never understood Obama, because he is Muslim; he ba ba ba ba. But this guy, is a very good patriotic American. For 29:00example, he forget about 4 years of paychecks, giving it to the poor people. Giving away his business to his children; I don't care about money. Then he spent 45 million on his campaign. Put this together, and see he really wants to do something with American. You don't know at this moment what was wrong with politics in your government, but I know. Now I am telling you, very easy, they didn't do anything for America. At this point you have 8 trillion dollars you 30:00owe us, borrow from Iran. And then another 8 trillion from previous president, now you're bankrupt. But he says that is enough, I am going to open jobs, yesterday he opened jobs. You do not have to believe me, but this is political science. You have to understand, and work deeply in international politics.

AF: Do you remember, any classes I know we talked about difficult classes, but were there any favorite classes that were very interesting?

MR: Yes, Contemporary American. Very Interesting. Talking about Thomas Jefferson 31:00and George Washington and I know these are creators of this country. But talking about recent America, talking about Reagan, oh my god he was something. [inaudible]. Back home, I do not want to talk about it, I help him out I help him out in 440 days hostage taking. Yeah, he was a nice man, patriotic America. After that, this man (trump) is the second one. You do not have to hate me about these things but it is my opinion.

AF: No I agree with you, I do.

AF: What kind of a student were you? I guess we sort of talked about this, you had to study hard because you had to get over the language barrier.

MR: I had to study hard, because I had to understand what they're talking about. 32:00And then study how to present my language, talking; very hard believe me. If you do not know any other language, go to another country, go to university it is very hard for you to do it, but I did it not because I am saying I am smart, but because I was patient.

AF: How were you treated by students at UWO?

MR: Very good, because I was foreigner. Very good, I do not remember anything bad all the students here were good. Maybe in 5 years, how many classes most of them 3 credit courses. Every day, 3 or 4 courses in order to graduate on time. 33:00They were very good to me, and they liked me because I spoke English with an accent, but very good. I never had problems and they never had problems with me.

AF: Where did you spend most of your time on campus?

MR: Library, because I had to study, I had to present a book report, I had to read through all those time magazines to find out and put everything down to make a book report for a teacher. That report, saved me from C to B.

AF: A lot of your study time, was it alone? Did people help you?

MR: Alone.

AF: Alone, ok that must have been very difficult?

MR: Yes, very difficult. Talking about those students, I had a very hard time. 34:00But I had no rush, they pay for me education, tuition, my food! So, I had to take my time and learn to study.

AF: Did you wish there was more assistance here? Or was it more, I'm here I'm going to figure things out?

MR: I have no answer for that, I do not know what to tell you.

AF: You spoke that you lived in a dorm your freshman year, what was that like?

MR: Very very hard. Very cut, with my English that day, but they started to understand me. "Hey boy, eat?" Then after freshman, sophomore year, junior year 35:00was very different.

AF: Were you still in the dorms?

MR: No, only two years. After that I lived in private housing, (with professor Chang). But, I had less difficulty my junior/senior year. The people loved me because I liked to talk to them. I used to talk to good looking young ladies, it gives you the energy!

AF: What were the rules like in the dorms?

MR: Yes, I remember the one floor; like now, one floor men, women. You have to come home on time, before 11 o'clock if you go someplace. You have to study and 36:00not bother other people [inaudible]. I never had problems, different life in dormitories. Other than that, housing for room all depends who was my next roommate. I never had a bad time in the US.

AF: Did you make friends, I guess with roommates; did you maintain that relationship with them?

MR: You mean, talking about girlfriend? Or just a friend?

AF: You stayed with one other guy in your room correct?

MR: Yes.

AF: Did you become friends?

MR: Very friends, we used to go to some place in Oshkosh called the Rail on 37:00Jackson on Saturday. They go there, drink beer, dance together and come back home. Yes I had friends like that, they loved to go out with me because I was a different.

AF: Did you maintain any of these friendships as you got older and moved away?

MR: Well, I had to go home after graduation and then I came back here in 1979. That was different story but, I work in Clements hall and Scott hall, their students knew me from years that I was a student here. Come and talk to me and 38:00ask me questions, before they went to class. I had to work, helping students but they used to come to talk to me about geography, history all those things. I had to answer those, and sometimes I couldn't do my job. Then I called office one day, very cute, I said don't worry about it help them [inaudible]. Very friendly.

AF: Do you have any memories from your time here that really stand out to you?

MR: The memory of going home, I had to go home. I did not want to go home after 39:00graduation. This is the only thing, but I had to go because they sent me a ticket to go home. That was a bad thing, I had to go home because I wanted to stay here, but I had to follow the rules.

AF: What were other students like here? Because I am sure you had to work harder than most students.

MR: Yes, same students like me. They had problems to. But, we had 40 students from home here, I graduated and got home but they had problems of study because of the language.

AF: How big were classes?

MR: Not more than 32.

AF: That's a bit different than now.

MR: Yes, sometimes we had classes in the lecture room, 200-300 people who meet 40:00once a week. Other than that 31-32 at most.

AF: Were you a part of clubs or organizations at all?

MR: Yes, international relations club. All different students from all other the world. We are not but the only ones here, Japan, Korea, China. Every two weeks we got together at the union, second floor. Talked to each other, have pizza tonight.

AF: Was it required for you to be in that?

41:00

MR: No, it was interesting to go and study in that, it wasn't bad, very good. Every two weeks I think we got together.

AF: You had spoken earlier about playing basketball here, tell me about that?

MR: I played basketball, in Albee hall. I took a course [inaudible]. Anyhow, playing basketball is part of that course, jogging in the morning and then play basketball. I remember after 3 months, I became a very good basketball player because I was tall. Very good, basketball is… I love it here, but I had to do 42:00it with that course, I do not remember the name of that course.

AF: Was there a basketball team at the time?

MR: Yes, the team was going around, and then I remember I walked in; I don't think you know what I'm talking about, walked in the place you have football.

AF: I can't think of the name.

MR: We used to go over there and play basketball/football there. But basketball we had to play to get a grade.

43:00

AF: Were there any other sports besides basketball that you were interested in?

MR: Soccer, but wasn't very good here. I used to play soccer at home, but here it was just basketball.

AF: Besides sports, what did you do for fun?

MR: Going out every week with the students at the Rail. The Rail is a place on Jackson Street, we used to go there every Friday and Saturday. Drink beer, dance, talk to each other. That was very good for us.

AF: How many people would you say?

MR: Ooooh lots of them! Full place of students! Of course boys and girls together.

AF: Did you have to walk there?

44:00

MR: No, we had to…. I had a car, and other people had a car to pick up each other and drop each other places.

AF: That brings up another point, getting your driver's license, how did that work?

MR: Very easy, we had to take a course sophomore year. Very easy, go and sit down, of course sometimes you pass the [inaudible] one page they used to help us. But when I went out for driving I was very good because I did back home. But we had to have driver's license in order to drive the car. Most of us had a car 45:00and driver's license to go off with the girls. (Laughs).

AF: How did you get a car?

MR: The car, 150-200 dollars. Back then it's different. Of course we ask home, parents you want to buy a car so send a check in the mail. I am not talking about a big car.

AF: You spoke of when you came back, you got a job on campus?

MR: Yes, in dormitories.

AF: Were you attend school while doing that?

MR: No no no, I came here only, I came back here after revolution, and I applied for a job and they said this is the job we have for you and you'll love the job 46:00because you will work with the students in the dormitories. Are you living in dormitory?

AF: I do not.

MR: Oh my god, beautiful life. So, I got a job for 10 years, I had to pay work/social security in order to retire.

AF: Talking about the revolution, so you went to school from….?

MR: 1961-1967

AF: And then you went back?

MR: Home, work for government, no revolution. Pro America, we liked them they liked us. In 1979, Muslim revolution occurred and things became different. So many people graduated from US found ways to go back. I came back in 86'

47:00

AF: Did your family leave with you?

MR: Yes, my wife and one daughter came with me, and my son and daughter grew up here in Oshkosh.

AF: You mentioned going out, did you drink alcohol?

MR: No, alcohol is against my religion.

AF: How was that, did the people you went out with respect that?

MR: It was ok, I drink water, they did not interfere they knew I did not drink.

AF: Did you go to any other bars or hangouts?

MR: No, I have never been in a bar in the United States, that is a club not a bar.

48:00

AF: Club, right.

AF: What were men and women like then, compared to now?

MR: Two different things, student's life is different than people now. It is very hard to compare, I don't know, I have no answer to that.

AF: What about the way they dressed, is that different from now?

MR: Of course, from time to time you live in the 21st century, this is different. But, the US if I see these things here, it is more advanced. You were more advanced at the beginning, that's what I mean. Free country, you do 49:00whatever you want to. But in my country, you had no choice, you had to dress in what they tell you.

AF: Was that for women and men?

MR: Usually for women, but men could not come out in streets in short t-shirt, they would put them in jail! They have to behave.

AF: You met your wife here?

MR: No. My wife came with me, with my daughter who was 4 years old and she came here with me, and then she passed away a few years ago. Two children, one son, 50:00one daughter.

AF: Do you by chance remember any major issues on campus on the time?

MR: Talking about those days?

AF: Yeah.

MR: If there was any major issues, I was not aware of it, I do not know.

AF: The 1960's, while you were here was a part of the cold war era in America, so the whole communism, was that hard to understand at the time?

MR: In America, there is no way to discuss communism in any days. But they knew they had a communist party in the US but they knew that, very open. But people 51:00who come from outside US they had no communist ideology because the country was not communist. I don't know what the answer is but I knew the America 1960 till now, communism had no place in America.

AF: Also, during that time period, the Vietnam War - how were people's attitudes here?

MR: They did not like it. There were people sent by armies and air force, they had to go but really did not want to go. Stupid war.

52:00

AF: Did you know anyone in particular…?

MR: No.

AF: We kind of spoke how people treated you, did you ever experienced any racism?

MR: No.

AF: It was all good?

MR: Yes.

AF: Good.

MR: If you're talking to me, I do not know anything bad about the United States, that you're talking. To me, everything is beautiful. Maybe I am exaggerating. But you may have problems, but to me I was living in heaven compared to [inaudible].

AF: What made it that much better here?

MR: Because I live better, Life was simple here. You could not find a person 53:00dying of hunger in the streets because you people have more than you need. Then you help others, look at all those charity organizations, if you're smart you get a job, you use your head you be at companies with a job. If you're dumb, still you have something to live, I do not see anything bad about this country. I haven't experienced anything bad. History proves you have the best.

AF: Right. What things have you done since graduating college you spoke about going back and working about the government?

54:00

MR: Yeah, I had to go home because they sponsored my education so I had to work for the government and in case you want to know, the last position I had in my government was a governor of a state. Oh yes, and then that was the last position, before then they elected a general [inaudible] I was one of the top people in the country. Then after revolution, I told them I want to go back to the US. [inaudible] And then I started to work in dormitory, because I didn't care, I said thank you god that I am here. Do you understand what that means?

AF: Right, right.

MR: Otherwise job, money was over there for me.

55:00

.

AF: Was it hard for you to get a job when you moved back?

MR: No, I went to the University and talked to my professor, now that I came back from my country you know? He said ok, we will find you a job if you are not very fussy. I said no no anything. So they found me a job in dormitories where I could talk to students, help the students; anything in dormitory. So I worked 10 years!

AF: Did you do anything after that?

MR: No, after that I retired and now I am enjoying myself. (laughs).

AF: Did you feel like college prepared you for life?

MR: Yes, Yes. College, I do not know about my country but yes college is a very 56:00good life. They tell you, you have choices. Take it or leave it; anything! Does anybody come to US and say you cannot major in that? No. [inaudible]. Land of opportunity, this is my answer to your question. Land of opportunity for everything, and I am very happy that I came here, very happy that I came back here and I love the United States and American people. The only thing bad about your country, is bad politics. Ohhhh. (laughs).

AF: Right, have you been involved at all with UWO recently?

MR: Recently, no. Those days, yes. I don't remember but when I came back, I had 57:00to keep working 4o hours a week. Other than that, no.

AF: How do you feel about UWO now?

MR: It is a great society, [inaudible]. When I came here it was only 500-600 students? Now it's 16,000. Did you know that your campus is one of the best campus in the US? One of the 10 top. See, beautiful. Beautiful facilities for you people, if you do not want to do it that is up to you. But if you want to use your head, right now today I came here [inaudible]. Never be against your 58:00country, beautiful country.

AF: What advice would you give students now, as far as school and life?

MR: Study, and stay away from politics. Study, honest to god. Study as much as you can even during [inaudible]. Because, this is the best place you can get it. Best place, United States.

AF: Do you have anything else to say that you feel needs to be said? About anything?

MR: What do you mean by that?

AF: I guess like, do you have anything that needs to be said about UWO and your experience?

59:00

MR: When I came here, when I had education here, when I see UWO now, it is a fantastic place. One of the best universities in the United States, I can prove it to you!

AF: Right.

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