Education

39-year-old father gets full ride to Furman

Bob Anderson: ‘I never thought I’d have a chance to win this thing.’
Bob Anderson: ‘I never thought I’d have a chance to win this thing.’ PROVIDED PHOTO VIA GREENVILLE NEWS

Bob Anderson couldn’t sleep. He tossed and fidgeted in an uncomfortable hospital-room chair while his wife, Andrea, and newborn baby boy slept.

They’d just welcomed Bobby into the world on July 1, 2011 and Anderson’s mind swirled.

“I was sitting there in that delivery room and I was saying ‘you know, one day my son’s going to ask me what I do for a living and I’m never really going to be happy with what I do,” Anderson said.

That’s when Anderson decided he was going to go to college.

Anderson, a Greer resident, had built a 15-year career in IT support as a contractor for Ford Motor Co. But what he really wanted to do was teach science.

So he turned to Greenville Technical College, where he earned an associate of arts degree last May. He planned to teach middle school science, but coordinators at Greenville Tech’s Honors Program convinced him to pursue his real dream – teaching physics.

Now Anderson is wrapping up a second degree, an associate of science, at Greenville Tech. Along the way Anderson got a bit of good news.

He learned last month he’s been awarded a full-ride scholarship to attend Furman University in the fall.

“I literally jumped up in the air because I never thought I’d have a chance to win this thing,” he said. “As a non-traditional student going on a traditional path, I felt that competing against 20-year-old kids, I wouldn’t have a chance.”

Anderson’s not your typical Furman student. He will turn 40 in October in the middle of his first semester.

He is the oldest recipient of the Alden Transfer Scholarship, which is given to one incoming transfer student each year at Furman, said Melissa Cline, Furman’s assistant director of admission.

The scholarship has gone to a Greenville Tech graduate at least eight of the past 10 years, Cline said.

But Anderson is the most atypical student to get it, and he knows that.

“As a 39-year-old man, the options for school aren’t really long,” he said.

If he’s successful, he believes it will open more opportunities for older students to win the same scholarship.

He believes professionals in their 30s or 40s will take a similar path after settling into one career then deciding to pursue their passion.

When Anderson was in high school in Michigan he planned to join the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program when he graduated high school. He didn’t put much effort into college applications, he said.

Then, after two years of uncertainty, he was denied entry into the Navy for health reasons, he said.

He then fell into college, and because his heart wasn’t in it, he quickly fell out of college and into an IT career.

“Because I just kind of fell into this job, it was more of ‘this is what I know how to do’ versus ‘this is what I want to do.’”

His colleagues at Ford support his desire to change careers, and he views his time at Furman as an opportunity to open doors for other non-traditional students, he said.

“I feel a little bit of pressure on me to try to prove that this type of student can be equal academically as someone who is fresh out of high school,” he said.

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