82-year-old U.S. Army Veteran Achieves Lifetime Goal of Earning Bachelor’s Degree

Thursday, May 10, 2018


ORANGEBURG, S.C. – James Robinson was born and raised in Coward, South Carolina. After serving 22 years in the U.S. Army and overcoming various obstacles, he will earn a Bachelor of Science in family and consumer sciences from SC State University on May 11.


Lt. Gen. Bruce T. CrawfordAfter earning an associate degree in history from the University of South Carolina, Robinson chose to attend SC State because he believed it would provide him the close-knit and tailored learning experience he was seeking.


His love for education sparked when he was a young boy growing up in Florence County. Born into an era plagued by a severe economic downturn and racial division, Robinson had always deemed education a necessity.


“I went to a small, rural school where I’m not sure if education meant a lot to some people, but it meant a lot to me. I knew I had to get an education so that life could be more abundant,” Robinson said.


After graduating from high school, he chose to attend Allen University in Columbia. Faced with the costs of attending college, he decided to join the U.S. Army instead and travel the world. Despite joining the military, Robinson always had his mind set on receiving an education and eventually, a four-year degree.


He completed military assignments in South Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts and overseas in Korea, France and Germany. As he traveled, he was exposed to different cultural experiences and learned how to navigate the changing world.


While fulfilling an assignment in Germany, he learned that one of his daughters was suffering from heart complications, and returned home. As she recovered, he completed assignments at Fort Jackson and later returned to Europe.


He eventually arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he retired in 1980 as a Master Sgt. While serving in the Army, he completed classes and earned various certificates, which allowed him to substitute teach in Columbia’s public schools after retiring from the military.


The Columbia resident has enjoyed teaching and offering his wisdom to numerous students he encountered throughout the years. He believes he has learned a lot from students and hopes to continue to inspire the youth.


The Army veteran has also learned from his classmates at SC State University.


“Some people might see the generation gap as a challenge, but to me, it provides a learning experience. There are lessons we [younger and older generations] can learn from each other. I think patience is something that I learned more of, and I believe my classmates learned that too,” Robinson said.


With unwavering faith in God, he also served as a pastor at Walkers Chapel in Hemingway, South Carolina and Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Johnsonville, South Carolina.


Balancing school, work and taking care of his family presented challenges for Robinson, but he was determined to earn his bachelor’s degree, not only for himself but for his family as well. After his wife was diagnosed with brain damage, resulting in dementia, Robinson became even more determined to finish college.


“I know how good my wife has been to me. I have to do all I can for her. I didn’t care if it took me 100 years to get this degree. I was going to get it done,” he said.


He hopes to use his family and consumer sciences degree to continue the work that has fulfilled him throughout his life, which is helping the youth and others within his community. He is grateful to SC State for providing him the opportunity to achieve a lifetime goal and is honored to graduate from the historically black college.


Robinson and his wife, Ethel, have three children, Patricia, Carolyn and James.