Richard Harris seems like your typical undergraduate student on paper. He’s taking Bradley core curriculum courses, working to keep his scholarship and balancing fraternity life. There is, however, one key difference. He’s 48 years old.
Harris enrolled in Bradley’s electrical engineering program when his company, Parker Hannifin Corp, offered him tuition and his post 9/11 GI bill paid for another portion.
“I’d never gone to college,” Harris said. “I went to Iraq with the army in 2004 and I was a truck driver. I hurt my shoulder in Iraq, had to go through some therapy. While I was going through therapy, I went to the veterans office and they qualified me for an Illinois Veteran’s Bill to help me go to college. I was kind of nervous about it.”
Harris is enrolled as a part-time student, and is taking three courses to ease into school.
“Getting back into school I wanted to make sure to have a light load so I’m able to get back into good study habits,” Harris said.
Harris said that going into his classes, he had no idea what to expect or how he’d be treated until he jumped right in.
“I wasn’t treated differently at all in recruitment or in class, by the professors or the students,” said Harris. “Students might give me a bit more reverence because I’m an older person. I wouldn’t say they’re more respectful, because they’re respectful to everyone. I guess they do tend to look at me as a fatherly figure.”
Though Harris didn’t feel he stood out, he, like many other students, wanted to fit in.
“[Just by] going to a class, it’s not easy to make friends,” Harris said. “Curiosity is what got me into Greek life. I was interested in seeing what it was about. After I had been to several of the houses, it was actually one of the last houses that particularly appealed to me.”
Harris said he had not planned on joining Greek life at all until going through recruitment, when he saw real bonds between brothers, and envisioned himself there too.
“There were a lot of houses where the main priority and focus was to help each other. It’s actually a very impressive program,” Harris said.
Though Harris felt comfortable with many of the houses he saw, he accepted a bid from Lambda Chi Alpha in the end, and said the house was the best fit for him.
“I only have three classes, which means I have a lot of time to devote toward the fraternity as well,” said Harris. “I am involved as I can be in the fraternity. In fact, we had a brotherly get together on Saturday; I was able to go to. Whenever I’m [on campus] and I’m not busy I go and hang out at their house.”
Students can catch Harris in one of their classes, or maybe even at fraternity exchange.