Like grandfather, like grandson
Among the scores of spectators and the 329 UW-River Falls graduates Dec. 20 at the Knowles Center, two people shared a special bond.
Jay Anderson was getting a diploma for a degree in physics. He minored in math.
"I like anything with engines," Jay said. "I've had a passion for cars since I was knee high.
Watching Jay graduate with nostalgia and pride was Doyne Anderson, 82, his grandfather.
Fifty years ago in 1958, Doyne stood on the lawn outside North Hall and was handed his college diploma in ag-education.
"I couldn't have been prouder if he had gone to Yale," Doyne said about his grandson, eyes watering while describing the emotions. "I pretty near hollered, "Go, Jay!' I'm so glad he went to my alma mater.
"It's a great school. The faculty aren't aloof. They're real people; part of the community. The class sizes are smaller than at a big university.
"Seeing Jay get his degree reminded me of the great hopes I have for him. He wants to get into engineering. He likes figuring things out. I think he will achieve much more than I did. I enjoy seeing young people make something of themselves. Kids truly miss out if they don't get an education."
Jay wants to continue his education someday at either UW-Madison or the University of Minnesota. He'd like to earn a master's in mechanical engineering and work in the automotive or defense industry.
Doyne says UW-RF is vastly transformed from when he attended in the mid-1950s.
"I tell Jay that I took courses from the guys that the buildings on campus, including the dorms, are now named after," he laughs.
Doyne and Jay have another bond. They're veterans.
Doyne was an Army draftee who served during the Korean War from 1950-53 as code intercept operator. He married his wife, Ruth Nelson of Maiden Rock, while on leave.
Jay belongs to the National Guard. In March he'll deploy for a second time oversees, possibly in Iraq again, for 9-10 months. He was there from July 2006 to July 2007.
Because of his size -- six feet, six -- Jay rides atop patrolling Humvees as a gunner.
"It's about the only place in that vehicle where he can fit," Doyne said of Jay, who also played defensive tackle for the UW-RF Falcons football team.
Doyne hopes Jay will also join him someday as a member of the local American Legion.
After Korea and college, Doyne held several jobs, including teaching industrial arts in Osceola and substitute teaching in River Falls. Mostly, though, he stuck to carpentry, working on commercial and residential building.
While he didn't use the specifics of his ag-ed degree, Doyne, now retired for 10 years, said college gave him the confidence and know-how to have a decent career.
"River Falls was an agricultural school and was known as 'Moo U," he said. "But for myself and others, we got a well-rounded bachelor's degree that businesses looking to hire regarded very highly. My background included everything from soil chemistry and marketing to animal husbandry, genetics and speech."
While Doyne admires Jay early academic success, Jay says his grandfather's energy and handiwork skills are a marvel.
"He built a spiral staircase in his home four or five years ago," Jay said. "He never stops. His motivation is something I admire. I hope when I'm that age I'm in his kind of condition."
Jay added that he's close to many of his relatives and is happy to have all four of his grandparents still alive.
Doyne and his family did move away from River Falls but always returned.
"We liked it here, and I finally decided that I was going to work close to where I wanted to live -- in River Falls," he said.
Today, Doyne's joy in having his grandson follow in his footsteps 50 years later is tempered by what faces Jay next: Continuing to serve his country.
"You have to have enough faith and trust that things over there will turn out," he said. "I'll worry about him driving around. I don't want to see him getting a leg blown off.
"But I can't allow myself to become pessimistic about him being in harm's way. I will just pray and support him and hope he'll come back so he can get on with his life and what he can achieve."