Bruce Heilman has had a long career as an academic, first as a professor and college administrator and, since 1988, as chancellor of the University of Richmond, a liberal arts college in Virginia. To him, it all began during his four years as a Marine.
To most of my colleagues on campus, I'm a card-carrying academic. I've spent 55 years in the halls of ivy, 21 of them as a college or university president. What most of them don't know—and what might be astonishing to some of them—is how it all began. I got my start as a U.S. Marine.
In my recently published memoir, An Interruption That Lasted a Lifetime, is a photo of my high school report card that shows how difficult it might have been to predict my career path during my teenage years. The son of a tenant farmer, I didn't do well at my studies, and I badly wanted to quit school. Lacking enough credits for a high school diploma, I would have had to stay in rural Kentucky and spend the rest of my youth on the farm or as a truck driver. So, at age 17, I joined the Marine Corps. It was to change my outlook on life and lead me into a fulfilling career.