From the moment Tommy Pinkard took his first trip as a little boy to Toomer’s Corner with his father, he knew he wanted to attend Auburn University.
At 63 years old Pinkard, more commonly referred to by his family and friends as “Pink,” graduated this past December from the school he had his eyes on for decades but with a degree in something that he had never really considered until coming to Auburn.
After a 33-year career in Jacksonville, Alabama, working for at-risk juveniles, Pinkard decided it was time to retire.
He sat down, and when he made a bucket list of things to do in retirement, he decided that the first thing he wanted to do was to get an Auburn University student ID card. He figured he could take a semester of classes to challenge himself and see if he could fulfill the lifelong dream. Without a concrete plan set in stone, he had no idea he was actually going to graduate.
During a night out at dinner with his friends, Pinkard began telling them about his bucket list and his idea of attending school again. They followed him up with a simple, logical question.
“Well, what are you going to study?”
Pinkard had no idea and no response. Left speechless, one of the friends at the table told him he knew of someone teaching a women’s studies class. Pinkard had no idea that a course like that was even offered, but the idea of taking that course of study stuck with him.
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Pinkard then decided it was time. He was going to attend Auburn and get the ID he had always wanted.
After registering for classes and sitting in front of his advisor, Pinkard decided to take the initiative to jump into women’s studies.
“Once I got into the program, I thoroughly loved it,” he said. “I grew completely into a feminist.”
Before beginning his first semester, Pinkard was able to transfer a lot of his credits from his past education at Jacksonville State University, where he earned a degree in business and economics upon graduation in 1977.
“Before, I was young and only going with the flow, but sitting in class and having the full college experience again was just like the feeling of when I first did in 1973,” Pinkard said.
Because he was an off-campus student with many more responsibilities, Pinkard averaged taking six credits per semester.
“This process was absolutely long, but I enjoyed it for the purpose that I was there to be more focused on actually learning something,” he said.
During the four years that he spent at Auburn, Pinkard was able to study abroad in Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape of South Africa at Stenden University.
“It was one of my most favorite things I have done throughout my four years,” Pinkard said. “It was a lot of fun for me to create bonds with the other students from Auburn and the other students from universities from all different countries. I got to really appreciate everyone there from all over the world, and I felt so welcomed.”
Now, with a second degree and a checkmark next to a lifelong bucket-list item, Pinkard isn’t sure what the future will hold, but he knows it is bright.
“I don’t know what I am going to do, but the future is so open now.”
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