As a 77-year old Ph.D. candidate in Miami University’s Department of Gerontology, it might be said that Bob Turner `72, M.A. `86 has a distinct advantage over his classmates in understanding the aging process.
When examining the bearded dynamo’s daily log, however, it could also be argued that Turner actually knows very little about growing old.
In his 46th year at AK Steel, where he works as a safety coordinator, Turner also owns his own barbershop – Clip Joint – where he trims hair every Saturday. He is also a Certified Professional Photographer and proprietor of Turner Photography, Chairman of the Warren County Democratic Party, and a national qualifier in the shot put and discus in the U.S. Senior Olympics.
Of course this is all secondary to being a husband of 56 years, a father of six, a grandfather of 10, and a great-grandfather of three. According to Turner, it’s just a matter of passing the time.
"I figure there are 24 hours in a day, and I really only need 6-7 hours of sleep," Turner says. "That’s a lot of time to pass, and there are a lot of things I’m interested in."
One of those interests has always been education, but Turner was nearly 40 before he began his college career. He attended barber school out of college, passing up a college football scholarship, and went on to serve as a radio operator in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After beginning his career at AK Steel – then Armco – in the labor reserve section, he later transferred to the technical repair department.
While monitoring some new recruits there, he decided to meet a new departmental requirement by taking a series of seven classes at Miami. Once those classes were finished, Turner decided to complete his associate’s degree in applied science, then his bachelor’s degree in education, and then his master’s in educational media. "I always enjoyed school, so I decided to just keep going," he said.
He became aware of the gerontology program in 2006 through a newspaper article about a course training older industrial workers. The definition of an "older industrial worker" was anyone 40 years old and above, and it sounded like an ideal course to Turner – AK Steel’s longest tenured employee. Turner soon realized the broader implications of the field.
"People are living longer, and there are so many things that can be done to enhance the lives of our older citizens. As our population ages, there’s a real need for people with this type of degree."
Along with investing his time and first-hand insights in the classroom, he and his wife, Carol Haney Turner, also have chosen to invest financially in Miami’s Scripps Gerontology Center, which was recently nominated by the university as an Ohio Center of Excellence. The couple’s commitment, which was doubled by a matching gift from AK Steel, is a statement about the priority they place on education.
"I’ve had a good job, and I know economic times are tough," Turner said. "I want Miami to be successful. I recently heard President Hodge speak, and he said the number one goal of the university is for its students to be successful. That’s what it should be. I know that my education has helped me be successful."
Turner is a handful of courses away from completing his doctorate and has chosen to compile a book of photos and individual stories profiling Senior Olympians as his dissertation. He points out that seniors can learn a lot from the mental and physical approaches of these inspiring athletes.
"You need to have long-term goals, something to work toward and look forward to. You also need an interest in nutrition and exercise and a desire to stay healthy. That’s so important … life is not nearly as enjoyable if you’re not healthy."