By Jessica Cuevas, April 6, 2021
In the pursuit of education, 72-year-old Cal Poly Pomona student Roy Pippin, a third-year psychology student, is proving that age and background do not matter. Despite his age, he is working toward his bachelor’s degree to walk across the stage next year after spending “all his life doing different things.”
With a psychology degree, Pippin strives to counsel children and families after graduating — a familiar territory as he offers counseling services at his church.
After serving in the Air Force for 23 years, he managed an air conditioning, plumbing and construction company with his family for 14 years. Now, Pippin works at the Franchise Tax Board as a watch engineer while attending CPP.
After spending his first two college years at Norco College as a philosophy student, he dedicated more time and effort to researching job opportunities with a philosophy degree and felt that it was “really limited,” which led him to change course and pursue psychology.
“I transferred to Cal Poly, and they allowed me to come to the college. It’s a beautiful college,” said Pippin.
His interest in pursuing psychology professionally piqued while working as an engineer for 13 years at the California Medical Facility and the California State Prison in Vacaville, California, according to Pippin.
Pippin would often engage with the inmates — especially with five convicted killers — and learned a lot about them and their behaviors.
For eight hours a day, Pippin visited and interacted with them by engaging in conversation and offering advice, hoping to help them become better individuals. Surrounding himself in many different cultures, Pippin dedicated his time to listen and understand the inmates’ backgrounds and perspectives — especially when no one else did.
“It was a learning experience for me to see where they came from,” said Pippin. “I saw their lack of ability to interact with other people as a problem to communicate socially.”
He also allowed the inmates to work for him to stay out of trouble in the prison with various tasks, including assisting with engineering work and helping with the cleaning process, while showering them with positive reinforcement.
“I saw them as human beings, and it was a great learning experience,” said Pippin.
Currently, Pippin aims to complete his classes and potentially pursue a master’s degree after graduating.
Like other Broncos, even though Pippin cannot physically be on campus during virtual instruction due to the pandemic, he sees virtual instruction as a benefit for him, especially when it comes to parking and not having to walk all over campus.
Now, as a university student, Pippin advises students to never give up despite the obstacles they encounter.
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