Sixty-five years ago, Bobby Frederick Lancaster began his journey as an Arkansas Tech University student.
He completed that journey on Dec. 20, and he did so with his grandson and fellow member of the Arkansas Tech Class of 2014 — Brant Bauman — by his side.
“I finally finished at last,” said Lancaster. “It started out in high school when I came up here on a ball trip. I became infatuated with the place, and I stayed that way. I watched Tech go from a junior college to a senior college, and then I got to watch it go on the rest of the way.”
Lancaster first enrolled at Arkansas Tech in 1949. He attended through 1952, at which point he left school to serve his country in the Korean Conflict.
A review of his transcript by the Arkansas Tech Office of the Registrar found that Lancaster had earned the proper credits for an associate degree, which he received during fall 2014 commencement ceremonies at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday.
“I wanted to be with Brant on his graduation day anyway, so to be here with him in this manner is very exciting,” said Lancaster. “I’m very proud of him.”
Bauman knew in advance that Saturday would provide a great deal of closure and satisfaction for his grandfather.
“He’s always been proudly from Tech, but there’s always been a touch of sadness because he never graduated,” said Bauman. “He did what so many men and women did, and he did it so proudly. I don’t think there was ever a regret of it, but there is part of it that he always wished he had graduated. When I found out we were going to get to graduate together, I thought it was the best thing ever. It’s one of the most exciting things about graduation for me.
“I am a highly nostalgic individual,” continued Bauman. “I think that comes from my career. I take pictures, and I tell people all the time that I love my job because I capture memories. That’s what I do. It’s my passion. So for me, with graduation, to be able to make this memory and share this memory with my grandfather means the world to me. And I know it does for him, too. He’s always been a very loving grandfather who wants to connect with us. I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out.
The path from enrollment to graduation was more direct for the grandson. Bauman completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with a minor in criminal justice in three-and-a-half years.
“Arkansas Tech was the best choice for me because I have a business here, and I felt like it could equip me both in education and business,” said Bauman, who co-owns BnBauman Photography of Russellville with his wife, Kara. “I grew up in Russellville and love Russellville. Coming from Russellville High School, which is a great school and feels like a family, Arkansas Tech seemed like another family. It didn’t let down on that at all.”
The personal attention benefited Bauman as he balanced his education and his career.
“It’s been difficult,” said Bauman. “It’s my mentality. I always want to do everything the best, so it’s been difficult to give 110 percent to business and 110 percent to school. There have been times when there’s been a little give and take, but with a lot of prayer and a lot of time spent I’ve been able to dedicate enough time to school that I’ve been able to earn my degree in three-and-a-half years. I didn’t sleep much.”
Now that graduation will provide him with a little more time to rest, Bauman can reflect upon the new connection that he will always share with his grandfather as members of the Arkansas Tech Class of 2014.
“For as long as I can remember, one of the reasons I had always liked Tech and felt connected to Tech was because he went there,” said Bauman. “When I was in high school, I worked on a project with the Arkansas Tech Museum. I became really addicted to learning more about the history of Tech, and I shared with my grandfather that I was working on the project. He helped fill me in on how great Tech is, and when I decided to go there, he was super proud and wore his Tech shirt and his Tech hat. It was always fun to be connected to him in that way.
“He always talks about how different Tech looks than when he went there,” continued Bauman. “They were always trying to improve. I have to say it’s exactly the same for me as a student now. You look at how immaculate our campus is, and I feel like the transition of that during just the last four years speaks for itself. With our new president, with our staff continuing to improve…you can’t complain about Tech.”