Blake Minnix ’21 wasn’t sure if his grandfather, whom he calls “Pops,” was serious when he first started talking about earning his bachelor’s degree at Lynchburg.
“I thought he was just joking around with me,” Blake, a business administration major, said. “It really didn’t set in until my first year, when I saw him on campus or had friends asking if I was related to him because they had classes with him.”
When his grandson enrolled at Lynchburg four years ago, Jim Minnix ’20 thought it would be a good time to finish his bachelor’s degree, too. He was retired after a 40-year career in production and inventory control and had earned an associate degree years ago at Central Virginia Community College.
Being a University of Lynchburg graduate also would be something he’d have in common with his grandson. “It was an experience I wanted to share with him,” Jim said. “I really hadn’t even thought about returning to college until he did.”
College wasn’t an option for Jim when he graduated from Rustburg High School in 1965. After spending much of his childhood in the foster care system, he went right to work, got married, and raised five children.
When he enrolled at Lynchburg, Jim envisioned — perhaps unrealistically, he now admits — that he’d have the kind of experience he would have had as an 18-year-old, but that wasn’t the case. He was older than all of the traditional students and most of his professors, too. Sometimes, he felt like the odd man out.
There were bright spots, though, when he felt like “one of the guys,” including one day in his required physical education class. “Part of the phys ed class, you had to … see how fast you could walk a certain distance, how many pull ups, sit ups, etc., you could do,” Jim said. “I was severely lacking, of course.
“I look at it humorously, yet there were two of the young men that were in the class with me that held themselves back somewhat just to stay with me and make sure I was OK. I thought that was phenomenal on their part. I thought it was phenomenal that they would take an interest like that and make sure things went well for me. I thought that was terrific.
“Another case [was] in a religion class, where I was vigorously confronted about a theory we were talking about at the time. I really enjoyed that. A female student took me on, head to head.”
He added that he “thought it was wonderful” that the student didn’t treat him any differently, due to his gender or age.
As for his classes and instructors, the political science major said, “I don’t know how they could have been any better. They were super. I loved the courses I had to take, even the phys ed classes. I enjoyed that, actually. Religious classes, political science, the English, all of them.
“I had great instructors and professors and they are really, really out for the students. I can really appreciate that. As far as the curriculum and the teachers, that has been a wonderful experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
In May, Jim and Blake will officially graduate from Lynchburg, albeit in separate ceremonies due to their different class years. The 2020 Commencement exercises were postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, it gives grandfather and grandson the opportunity to celebrate their graduations together.
“I’m proud of him,” Blake said. “He’s been retired for several years now, so I was unsure if he’d want to continue after the first year, because he could have easily stopped and just continued to enjoy retirement. I wouldn’t have thought anything of [it], because he had already graduated from CVCC and worked his whole life to provide for the people he loves.
“So, if he had decided to leave and enjoy the fruits of his labor, I wouldn’t have had any grudges of any sort. But overall, I’m proud of what he’s accomplished because, from talking with him, it wasn’t an easy process for him but he stuck with it and saw it through.”