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Alumni Profile: Dr. Robert DeGise

During the fall of 1938, I entered the seventh grade at RMA. My goal was to study hard to qualify for acceptance at West Point Military College. But about three years later, in my senior year, the United States entered World War II. I was eager to serve my country, so I enlisted in the Marine Corps at 17 in January 1943 at Washington, D.C. I was placed in the inactive reserves until I graduated RMA in June of 1944. Two weeks after I returned home to New Jersey, I was ordered to report to Boot Camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.

After Boot Camp, I went through combat training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. From there by troop train to Camp Pendleton, California, boarded a troop ship and headed for Hawaii. After more training, embarked on another troop ship about six weeks later, I was participating in one of the most ferocious battles in Marine Corps history on the island of Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945.

Shortly after my discharge from the Marines in 1946, I entered college. At the end of my sophomore year I had an opportunity to become an electronic technician and dropped out of college. I should have stayed in college because about four years later the company I worked for went bankrupt, and I returned to college at Boston University and majored in journalism. My degree helped me find work with a heavy equipment manufacturer in Peoria, Illinois. While working there, I taught Technical Writing at a local community College in the Evening Division for 12 years. I wanted more education, so I decided to work for a master’s degree at Bradley University in Peoria. I had to attend evening classes because I was still employed during the day. I received my master’s degree in education three years later.

I retired from the business world after 33 years and within several weeks was hired at Bradley in the English Department to teach Business Communication as an adjunct professor. I felt to be more effective in teaching my students how to succeed in the business world, I needed to enhance my academic knowledge. At the age of 76, I began taking courses to fulfill the requirements for entering a doctorate program. At the conclusion of my course curriculum, I did the required research for my dissertation. After completing it, I went before a board of review and was awarded my doctorate degree in education six years later. After 24 years of teaching, I’m now in my second retirement.

At present, I participate in veterans’ ceremonies, play taps on my bugle at veterans’ funerals and special occasions such as the Marine Corps’ Birthday, Veterans Day, and Fourth of July. I also talk to local organizations like Kewanis, Rotary, Lions, and Boys and Girls Clubs in Peoria, grammar school children, high school classes, and church groups. They are all interested in my combat experiences while I was in the Marine Corps as a teenager.

My wife passed away seven years ago, and I have one son who is an orthodontist. I am taking lessons on my alto sax, so I can play tunes by Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Harry James et al of the Big Band era (1939-1945) and enjoy listening and dancing to those beautiful ballads. I’m especially interested in reading history books, studying business communication skills, and keeping up-to-date on current events.

I remember RMA’s motto Knowledge, Leadership, Character and have tried to include those qualities in my personal life. They have helped me achieve many of the goals I set for myself.