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Father and Son Chase College Dreams Together

Published Monday, July 13th, 2015

Michael and Tim Anderson
Tim (left) and his father Michael Anderson, both of Wakefield, will be starting as freshmen at Wayne State in the fall of 2015.

Michael Anderson and his son, Tim, will begin their undergraduate careers at WSC in the fall of 2015.

Dream big.

Find your passion.

It’s never too late.

Those might be catchy, common phrases for college students nowadays, but for incoming freshman Michael Anderson, those ideals are more than just surreal visions or big-time goals. They’re reality.

Why? Because this freshman not only knows what his passion is without a doubt, he’s also ready and willing to take on any challenge to achieve his dream.

Including the fact that he’s 39, has a family and has been out of school for 22 years. 

And now Michael along with his youngest son Tim, both of Wakefield, will be taking on college together – both entering Wayne State College this fall as first-time freshmen.

Time to Begin: It’s a Father-Son Thing Now

May 21 turned out a bright and sunny day at Wayne State. It was freshmen registration day, and during a break Michael sat down next to Tim and offered him a bit of personal advice about his upcoming college experience.

“Don’t have any regrets,” Michael said matter-of-factly, as they talked about the possibility of Tim trying out for the football team. “When you get done with school, you’re going to look back and say, ‘Well, I might have been able to.’ At least try it.”

That simple advice could be said about anything, but there are few people that can give it as sincerely as Michael did – because he has his own regrets since graduating high school in 1993.

Twenty-two years later, however, Michael is working to abolish those regrets. This fall, very soon after he turns 40 on Aug. 4, he will begin classes at WSC as a full-time student, in the same graduating class as Tim, and below his oldest son, Devin, who will be a junior at WSC.

Michael will be majoring in secondary education. He is considering a math endorsement, as well as a history or social science secondary endorsement. Tim has chosen accounting, and Devin is working on an agribusiness degree.

Though entering college at his age is unique, Michael is not one to ask for attention – quite the opposite. But the passion he displays for the career he’s chosen to pursue, and the very evident strong bond between him and his family, makes his story unique. His example is truly one to be followed.

Get Ready: Life Happened 

Michael had considered going to college after he graduated from Wakefield High School, but not long after high school, he and his wife Heather found out they had a son, Devin, on the way. 

“We hadn’t had a chance to get started before we found out, so we bit the bullet and decided we needed to grow up at that time and raise our family,” he said. 

And he’s glad he did. He said he is tremendously proud of their accomplishments and the people they’ve become. And beginning his pursuit of a college degree, his efforts to lead and teach them haven’t stopped.

“I just want to make sure they know you take all the opportunities available to you,” he said. “And this is an opportunity that I have, so I want to fulfill that and continue to lead them in that way. Now that Tim is going to be out of the house, I don’t have to go to football games in the evenings, and choir performances, and things like that. I know if I didn’t do it now, I would never get it done, so I want to finish what I started back then.”

So, after Michael and Heather married and later welcomed Tim, they focused all their efforts in raising a good family. Michael took on several jobs during the time his sons were growing up, including sanitation, production and manager positions for Waldbaum’s (an egg processing facility in Wakefield), housing construction and farmhand work, and truck driving, which he said has spent the most time doing. Heather worked as a CNA for years.

“I’ve done a lot of different things, but most recently I’m going to be working at Waldbaum’s as a second shift shag truck driver, moving trailers around and things like that,” he said. “I made that change so I would be off in the mornings and I could come to class. 

“That led to some interesting conversations with some of my bosses,” he laughed.

He’ll begin work at 1 p.m., right after classes are done for the day, and get off at 9:30 p.m.

“There’s only 24 hours in a day still, so it will be a struggle, but I think we’ll figure it out,” he said. 

“I have people that can help with homework,” he smiled as he looked at Tim. “I built a network of young friends who are going to be attending Wayne State, so I know I’ll have help if I need it.” 

He said he knows kids coming to WSC from Wakefield and Allen, whom he has helped through the years with sports.

“Hopefully they’ll be willing to help with a little knowledge here,” he said. “I might need a little help with some of the technology as far as with putting things online and doing papers. I said, ‘I can help you guys with the other stuff, but if you help me with the technology, we’ll be golden.’ That’s the one thing I’m really nervous about, but I know I have guys in my corner that’ll help me out.”

And it works out that Michael and Tim get to take two classes together this fall – World History and Introduction to Philosophy.

Get Set: Discovering His True Passion

As a nontraditional student, Michael knows college is not going to be as easy as it would have been right out of high school. But bypassing college at the traditional time actually turned out to be a good thing for him. 

“When I was 18, I didn’t know what my dream was yet,” he said. “It took me a couple years, but now I know what it is, so that’s what I’m going to go do. I’m pretty stoked about it.”

Michael said education is not the career he would have picked coming out of high school. Instead, it would have been engineering. 

That’s completely changed now.

“Because of raising the two boys and being exposed to opportunities with younger kids, I’ve discovered what I really want to do is make a difference in kids’ lives,” he said. “I’ve worked all my life for different companies or different individual farmers, and if I work really super hard, I make THEM extra money. Now I want to do something that actually means something. So if I work really hard in this career that I’ve chosen, it’ll make a difference in somebody’s life.

“It won’t make somebody an extra dollar, but it might save a kid, or it might point a kid down the right path. That is what I’ve really discovered is my true passion. That’s why I’m here.” 

Michael said he would like to stay in a small school in the area to teach – and hopefully coach.

“That’s part of the reason I decided to do secondary education – helping over the years with coaching my sons’ teams and Peewee ball, and I understood the passion I have with dealing with kids and I’d like to continue that if I can,” he said.

He added it may even be God’s plan for him too: He has a friend in youth ministry who had also suggested further education for him and that he’d be a good teacher – all before Michael had mentioned anything to him about his plan for going back to school.

And Go!: The Role of Athletics, Academics and Competition

Tim has chosen to major in accounting, but like his dad, he had also considered becoming a math teacher, because he was always good at numbers, he said, and he has also enjoyed coaching the fourth-grade basketball team in Wakefield for the past couple years, which he would like to continue. 

Despite their different majors, however, heavy involvement in sports fostered a similar trait that’s an important one in the Anderson family – competitiveness.

“We don’t necessarily like to win – we just hate to lose,” Tim explained.

Now Michael and Tim will be applying that competition to academics. They will both be enrolled in the Honors Program, and Michael said they have a bet on who’s going to have the higher GPA, bringing out friendly competition that will hopefully push them both to achieve higher.

“He might start out first because I might be a little rusty,” said Michael.

“He’s always got excuses,” said Tim.

“But I’m coming for you though. Don’t worry,” Michael shot back. 

Michael went on to explain the importance of athletics combined with academics.

“(In high school), if you look at smaller schools, the athletes almost exclusively are also your top academic achievers, and I think it’s because they learn to compete,” he said. “They learn things on a basketball floor or a volleyball court – they learn things that you can’t learn in the classroom, like leadership and teamwork. 

“They are almost unfailingly, at least in smaller schools anyway, your best academic achievers. They’re your presidents of your FBLAs, and FCCLAs, and National Honors Societies.” 

“I think that competitiveness is a huge part of becoming an academic achiever. I’m really proud that both of my boys seem to follow that and take it to heart and have the results to show for it.” 

“(Tim’s) GPA is going to start high because I won’t let it go low,” Michael added. “I’m gonna ride ya.”

“I wouldn’t expect any different,” said Tim. “And I wouldn’t change it.”

A Strong Support System: Not Far From Home

The duo is welcoming the new adventure of entering college together, but of course it has put a few other emotions in the mix.

“You kind of feel a little bit like the elephant in the room,” Michael said. “When I walk in the room, everybody kind of looks at me a little funny – nothing bad obviously, everybody has gone out of their way to be nice. I feel a little bit bad because I’m taking the spotlight off of him (Tim) so that kind of pains me a little bit, because he’s accomplished a lot in high school that I never did. So I don’t want to take his thunder because I’m tremendously proud of (both sons’) accomplishments.” 

Tim and Devin both gained numerous awards in high school – both athletic and academic – and learned to lead, volunteering and coaching during their high school years.

“They accomplished a lot more than I did in high school – I was kind of lazy,” he laughed. “I think that’s part of the reason they’ve been driven a little bit, maybe without even realizing it, and I’m just really proud of their accomplishments, more so than me. I’m just doing something I should have done 20 years ago.”

Michael said his family is extremely supportive of him, and Tim can’t wait for his dad to achieve a college degree.

“I think it’s great. He’s finally pursuing his goals and dreams,” Tim said. “He’s always came home, and he hated his job, and I don’t want him to hate his job anymore, so I think it’s going to be great.”

“The support of my wife and sons and select friends – that’s going to help,” Michael added. “I can’t do it myself. I’m eternally grateful to them.”

Being from a town only 10 miles away from Wayne, the Andersons are set in keeping close connection with their family and support system, but that’s not the only reason they’ve chosen WSC.

“This is a quality institution, and it always has had a great reputation for producing teachers,” Michael said. “It works out great that that’s what I want to do anyway, and the proximity is a definite bonus.”

“I think my mom would cry if I went anywhere else,” Tim joked. “I’m the baby, and she’s been really influential in my life. So it’s proximity to home for her. And the price is reasonable. You get a pretty good bang for your buck. That and I have a bunch of friends coming. And the chance to live close to home and also live here. I can always go home to do laundry, and I can watch high school games in my hometown, and I can still coach little kids’ basketball. I’ve enjoyed doing that the last couple years, so I’m going to continue to do that.”

Tim will be living in the dorms to get the full college experience, but being close to home also works out good for him because he can still be close to his girlfriend of four years – Josephine Peitz, who will be a senior at Wakefield High School and is WSC professor David Peitz’s daughter.

Now they have the whole summer to wait, but Michael and Tim are set up for success. They’ve registered for classes, they’ve got their work schedules in order (Tim works on a farm north of Wakefield), and they’ve got each other and their family to lean on for help and support.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know it would have been easier back then (right after high school), but now I know I’m going to earn it,” Michael said. “I’ll be able to help somebody else. That’s honestly what it is: I want to help people.”

“I’m looking forward to just being here (at WSC),” he said. “(On our registration day,) they said we have about 90 days, and I’m counting that down. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m ready to get going.”