Mayville State freshman is 54, living on campusOther than a calendar and the swimming pool schedule, the walls are bare in Room 181 of Agassiz Hall. It’s in contrast to the other dormitory rooms, wallpapered with posters of pro athletes, cutting-edge musicians and pinups. Asked about the shortage of decor, Bob Taylor said, “I have outgrown the poster stage.”
By: By Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
MAYVILLE, N.D. — Other than a calendar and the swimming pool schedule, the walls are bare in Room 181 of Agassiz Hall. It’s in contrast to the other dormitory rooms, wallpapered with posters of pro athletes, cutting-edge musicians and pinups.
Asked about the shortage of decor, Bob Taylor said, “I have outgrown the poster stage.”
He outgrew it a long time ago. That’s because Taylor is 54 years old, living in the Mayville State University dorm populated mostly with 18-year-old freshmen.
Triple their age and a grandpa, he has little in common with his dorm neighbors other than the pursuit of a diploma. The calendar is used as a reminder for when to take his medications, and the pool schedule is highlighted with the times for the water exercise classes, which are easier on his joints.
Room 181 is at the far end of the hallway, meaning a ruckus can come from only one direction.
“I was told that if it gets too wild, I’m supposed to just show my face and give them a ‘take-it-down-a-notch’ look,” he said. “I’ve only had to give the look once.”
Agassiz Hall was built in 1967, when students had fewer possessions. The room is 10 feet, 8 inches wide and 14 feet, 8 inches long. The single bed is the width of a bunk.
“Sometimes, it feels like the room is squeezing in on me,” said Taylor, who arrived on campus Aug. 11, two weeks before classes started.
Claustrophobia isn’t the problem, however.
“The real environmental shocker is that I have to go down the hall to go to the bathroom,” he said.
Otherwise, dorm life is a perfect fit. Taylor doesn’t own a car, so a short distance to classes is important. Meals are provided at the dining hall. And he has plenty of help down the hallway for his struggles with his laptop and Intermediate Algebra.
“I walk slowly to that class because of the torture I know is coming,” he said.
Convenience wasn’t the reason Taylor chose dorm life over off-campus housing.
“I wanted the feeling of being part of the college family 24/7,” he said. “Living on campus gives me the feeling of being a cog of the campus. If you live off-campus, you go to your classes, and then, you go home.”
Taylor “fell in love” with Mayville State when his two sons, J.T. and Robert, played football here. J.T. graduated in 2005 and Robert plans to return to the school and team next year. Divorced from their mother, he visited them when they were here.
“I always dreamed of going to college,” he said. “I finally found myself in a position where I could go. My boys planted the seeds for me to come here.”
He first had to pass his high school equivalency test in May.
Taylor quit high school two months before graduation when his mother died, leaving him too despondent to finish, he said.
He was born and raised in Los Angeles and worked much of his adult life as a certified nursing assistant in elderly care facilities in Mesa, Ariz. That background has him interested in becoming a social worker.
His new world is close to a 180-degree turn from a year ago. He’s living in a small town, not a big city, surrounded by young adults rather than the elderly, in a cool climate rather than in heat.
“It seems surreal sometimes that I’m here,” he said. “I’m savoring every moment. A short walk. No smog. No fumes. Serene. Peaceful. You can leave the keys in a car and not have it stolen. You can say hello to people and actually have them say ‘hi’ back.”
He’s busy. He takes 16 hours of classes and works 16 hours a week in the cafeteria and library. He’s a volunteer for the football program. He does his own laundry and ironing.
Although it’s a single room, Taylor has a “roommate.” He introduced his guests to a spider he has named Zobarr that has taken up residence in the window sill. Zobarr has a collection of insects in his webs.
“Zobarr used to run away when I came over, but now he just sits there,” Taylor said. “I’ve either made a friend or I’m going nuts.”
Taylor delivered the comment with a robust laugh, as he did when he wondered aloud why none of his dormmates have asked him to buy alcohol and when asked if he would seek a date for homecoming. He can laugh at the unconventional route he has taken to college and the unlikely accommodations for a 54-year-old.
But the belated chase of his college dream is a serious matter.
“I have kept walking and God has kept opening doors to me,” he said. “And now I find myself at the door of Room 181.”
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