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'Bowtie Bob' continues a lifetime of learning
one course at a time at CCRI
Sept. 21, 2012
Robert Moyerman, 87, recently ran 7½ miles. What would be a trying distance for many much younger people is a routine workout for him, a man who epitomizes “staying active.”
Moyerman has been attending the Community College of Rhode Island part time for 22 years, holds three certificates and has completed136 credit hours. Known to many on the Knight Campus as “Bowtie Bob” for his characteristic tie, he is a great-grandfather, a World War II veteran, a retired chemist and consultant, a former atomic scientist, an avid runner and an amateur carpenter. He can be found on the campus almost every weekday morning and has been taking classes one at a time since retiring in 1990,compelled by simple curiosity, the force that has defined his life.
Moyerman grew up in Atlantic City, N.J., and attended Rutgers University for one semester before joining the Army in 1943. The Air Force was a part of the U.S. Army at that time and Moyerman volunteered to fly, receiving training in first aid, machine repair and radio communications.
He was assigned to a B-29 bomber, the largest and most advanced warplane of its day, famous for being the type that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Moyerman and his crew – including a pilot who liked to practice for potential emergencies by coming in for landings with one or two of the plane’s four engines switched off – flew out of Guam for bombing missions over Japan.
Moyerman’s primary job was to operate and monitor the airplane’s radio, though transmissions were few for fear of enemy interception. This made the dangerous missions seem routine.
“It wasn’t any different than a training mission for me,” Moyerman said. “Most of the time I was just sitting by the radio waiting for instructions that never came.”
But there were close calls, such as when Moyerman had to stand on the plane’s bomb bay doors during a mechanical emergency and hope they could support his weight; or when the plane burned too much of its fuel evading enemy fighters and had to land on Iwo Jima, the island famous for the iconic “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” photo.
When the war ended, Moyerman returned to Rutgers University and graduated in 1949 with a degree in chemistry, always one of his favorite subjects.
“I like the experimentation part,” he said.” I’m always curious. Whatever it is, I’m always curious.”
1951 was a momentous one for Moyerman: He graduated from the University of Alabama in February with a master’s degree in chemistry, got his first car and driver’s license, moved to White Plains, N.Y., to take his first job as a chemist and got married in May.
Moyerman worked for a company that was contracted to make atomic reactors. He did a lot of mechanical work on this job and was fascinated to use an early version of the computer called the comptometer, a machine that looked and operated like an old cash register.
“That was my first experience with a mechanical device to make calculations,” Moyerman said.
This encounter gave him an interest in computers that he would not indulge until many years later at CCRI.
Over the years Moyerman moved to take a series of jobs all over the Northeast, including in Maryland, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and East Providence. His family ultimately settled in Warwick. Moyerman worked as a research chemist for the U.S. Navy, helped build fire extinguishers and worked with surfactants, weed killers and textile dyes. He eventually became a consultant and traveled frequently before retiring in 1990.
“It wasn’t all my curiosity,” Moyerman said about his many job changes. “I picked jobs that didn’t last long … but it’s not like today. Every time I left a place I got another job, usually before my last paycheck.”
Almost immediately after retiring, Moyerman decided he needed to stay active and continue to learn. Having been away from school for almost 40 years,he came to CCRI to indulge his long-dormant interest in computer technology, which he sensed was about to become important in the world.
“I said, ‘There’s probably a lot I don’t know that’s new.’ In fact one thing I didn’t know was computers – I only knew comptometers!”
His first class was Introduction to Computers. “In the beginning it was just one class and I didn’t know if I would take another,” Moyerman said, “but that turned into a second and a third. I stayed with computers and then I went into the Engineering Department and took a course in computer maintenance.”
Moyerman earned a certificate in computer programming in 1994 and walked in that year’s commencement ceremony. Then he returned for more computer courses – “I have probably exhausted all the courses in that particular department,” he said – and took many more in drama, law, oceanography, physics, music, renewable energy and even hospitality.
He has since completed certificates in Computer Networking and Lean Manufacturing, in 2001 and 2004 respectively.
“You should always learn something,” Moyerman said. “You don’t have to go to college to learn – you could read a book to learn – but you should always learn something.”
Moyerman always takes one course per semester in the spring and fall. “I took a summer course once but it interfered with my summer,” he said.
He can be found almost every morning when the Knight Campus opens, drinking a coffee from Lessing’s Cafeteria and then sitting in the academic computer lab researching whatever he feels like learning next.
Moyerman is also fond of visiting staff members throughout the building, which gives him quite a following as “Bowtie Bob.” Computer Studies Professor Anthony Basilico bestowed the nickname on him and it has become a trademark, so much so that he gets comments and giggles on the rare days he forgets to wear it.
Despite his long academic career, he said he cannot single out a favorite course above any others: “I’ve just been lucky that I picked courses that I really liked to take,” he said.