Father and son togetherness

June 20, 2012 08:54 am
La Grande father and son both awarded associate degrees
in business administration during commencement at Eastern Saturday

By Dick Mason

The Observer

Robert Rysdam Sr. received a one-of-a-kind Father’s Day weekend thrill Saturday — the opportunity to make a commencement walk with his son, Robert Jr., at EOU’s Community Stadium.

The Rysdams, who both live in La Grande, strode down commencement row side by side and then each were presented hard-earned associates degrees in business administration.

“It was one of the most exciting things I’ve done,’’ said Rysdam Sr., 60.

His son shared a similar sentiment.

“It was touching. It was one of those experiences you don’t ever expect to happen,’’ the younger Rysdam said. 

 It is no coincidence that the father and son both received their degrees at the same ceremony. They enrolled at Eastern two years after losing their jobs at Boise Cascade because of its La Grande mill closure. Robert Sr. had worked for Boise Cascade for 35 years and his son for seven years. They enrolled at EOU to get the educational background needed to help them pursue new careers in the business field.

The Rysdams attended most of the same classes together, occasionally confusing their professors. Robert Jr., 28, explained that he registered as Robert Rysdam as did his father. This meant that enrollment printouts often listed two students named Robert Rysdam in the same class. 

“We sometimes confused the heck out of our teachers,’’ Rysdam Sr. said. “It was funny.’’

Professors often thought the printouts were in error until two people raised their hands when they called the name Robert Rysdam.

Rysdam Sr. found the experience more challenging than his son because he had not been in school for about 40 years. He said the support he received from Eastern’s faculty and staff went a long way toward getting him up to speed. 

“I would have been lost without them,’’ said Rysdam Sr., who said Sharon Nelson of the academic and career advising office was among those who helped him enormously. 

He also said his son helped him in a big way. The two often studied together since they had the same classes. 

“We definitely had fun. We didn’t compete,’’ Rysdam Jr. said. “We traded ideas to come to conclusions.’’

Much of the Rysdams’ tuition and fees were paid for with money from the federal Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act. The TRADE Act helps workers who have lost their jobs because of things like market conditions. 

Father’s Day had extra meaning for Rysdam Sr. on Sunday because of the chance he had to walk with his son at Saturday’s commencement.

“It was one of the best (Father’s Days) ever. It was just great. I am so happy.’’