Student Spotlight: Paul Sanders

Thu Jun 30, 2022 at 04:39 PM

Paul Sanders

After he retired, Paul Sanders only had three items on his bucket list: visit a foreign country, learn to fly an airplane, and go to college.

Born in 1942, Paul is a Waynesboro native. Upon graduating high school, he enlisted in the Army Reserves and began work at DuPont as a Chemical Technician, eventually working his way up to a Computer Analyst, before retiring in 1996. He then took a position as a Research Scientist with AstraZeneca until his retirement from that company in 2006.

Then, Paul set out to complete his bucket list! He was able to travel with his daughter to England and Spain in 2010. Reflecting on his travels, Paul relayed how much the trip meant to him; “what a fantastic part of my life, both for the experience, and the fact that my daughter was there with me.”

He then took on his second item – learning to fly an airplane. “I accomplished this at Eagles Nest Airport in Waynesboro in the summer of 2013,” said Paul. “I can now proudly state that I’ve actually taken off and landed at a Regional Airport, Shenandoah, right next to BRCC.”

Funny enough, Paul’s airplane ride landed him exactly where he would fulfill his final bucket list item. 

In a short essay he recently wrote in his English 111 course, Paul states, “All through the 46 years of my working career, I never went to no college. This fact preyed upon me the whole time.”

Paul decided to take his college search seriously, narrowing down his choices to those that could offer him hands-on, in-class experiences, as well as student interaction. He decided to take a campus tour at Blue Ridge Community College last May and quickly knew where he wanted to pursue his studies.

“What I learned during my campus tour is that any Virginia resident over the age of sixty, who attends a higher education public institution can do so for FREE! That capability opens many doors for me,” said Paul.

He decided to enroll in Dr. Chris Shaw’s English 111 course, and while he only has a few weeks of classes under his belt, Paul remarked that the campus is very conducive to learning.

“I’m a little surprised at myself for getting this far with all of this,” said Paul. “I was a poor student in high school. Learning how to study, how to apportion my time, and how to gear myself toward learning all this stuff is new to me.”

He’s taken advantage of the entirety of the Houff Student Center, as well as seen a few friendly faces along the way in various campus departments, including Financial Aid, Student Services, Public Safety, and the library – “all of whom, not only made me comfortable and welcome, but also showed a high degree of professionalism in their duties, all the time with a smile,” said Paul.

If he could give some advice to those looking into attending college, he says, “DO IT! Especially if you’re over sixty.” Paul’s newest goal is to continue his studies to earn some type of degree. 

“With all his experience and wisdom, it would be easy for Paul to see himself as special – and he is.  Yet Paul sees himself as a student – another learner in a classroom of learners – and he approaches education not from any position of superiority, but as a peer,” said Dr. Shaw. “This is one of the things that makes Paul not only a great person, but a great student.  Couple this with an abiding interest and a hunger for learning, and you’ve got a prototypical great student.  That’s Paul in a nutshell.”