17. Columbia University
Before Billy set off for Antarctica, he was accepted into both City College and Cooper Union. His father Rudy was eager for him to study at Cooper Union, not just for the free tuition but so Billy could continue his design education and join him in his interior decorating business. However, Billy was not able to matriculate as school started while he was on his Antarctica adventure.
When he returned, Billy’s days were filled with social engagements honoring the men of the expedition but paying work was hard to find in the heart of the Great Depression. Billy worked for a time as an assistant lecturer on the railroad. During this time, Admiral Byrd offered Billy help should he need anything. Billy decided, when the lecturing gig ended, he would apply to Columbia University to prepare him for a future life as an explorer.
Billy asked Admiral Byrd for a recommendation letter, which he wrote directly to Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler (for whom the library at the university is named for). Billy would not only be accepted on extremely short notice (he applied within a few days of school starting), but he also received a partial scholarship.
Admiral Byrd would give two lectures about the South Pole expedition at Columbia in the fall of 1930 and both times, he called up Billy to the stage.
Get a copy of The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica by author Laurie Gwen Shapiro on Amazon.