College of DuPage President Dr. Robert L. Breuder finds some irony in his recently being named a Distinguished Alumni by Florida State University.
His first application to FSU’s doctoral program was rejected in large part because his GRE score wasn’t high enough.
While initially disappointing, Dr. Breuder recalls the episode as another obstacle to overcome early in his career. Instead of heading to sunny Florida, he found himself in New York, taking additional post-graduate courses at SUNY-Albany, biding his time until he could earn acceptance into FSU. A chance encounter with Maurice Litton, program chair for FSU’s Higher Education program, however, soon led the future community college president to take a huge risk on his future and that of his young family.
“Dr. Litton happened to be speaking on campus. I approached him and said, ‘I would like you to know that I tried to get admitted to the university, but I didn’t get accepted.’ He asked for my name and information. Some months later, he asked me to resubmit an application and retake the GRE to get a better score.”
With provisional status and no guarantee of admission, Dr. Breuder and his wife packed up their possessions and 1-year-old child and headed to Tallahassee.
“You had to spend a semester demonstrating your academic prowess, pass the GRE exam in a foreign language, write a major paper and half a dozen other requirements,” Dr. Breuder said. “Dr. Litton became my mentor. When I came upon challenges and had a moment where I didn’t think I could get over that hill, he would just settle me down and talk to me and say, ‘You can do this’.”
Dr. Breuder completed the program, forever grateful for all the individuals over the years who believed in his abilities, including the continued support he received from Dr. Litton.
“The impact Dr. Litton had on my life was monumental. If he had not been in my life, I probably would not have gotten into the doctorate program,” he said. “It’s amazing how one person can make such an incredible impact on your future success.”
Dr. Litton’s influence, the result of that chance encounter so many years ago, continues to resonate with Dr. Breuder, who has served as a community college president for more than three decades and was the youngest community college president in the nation at Penn College at the age of 36.
Just as Litton impacted his life, Dr. Breuder said he’s pleased he has made lasting impressions on others and the institutions where he has worked. He’s accumulated a box of correspondence over the years. The cards and letters are an apt and invigorating reminder that every decision and interaction makes an impact, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
“We have the obligation to impact and to make a difference. We have an obligation to effect change. We have an obligation to help our students advance and achieve. If we don’t do this, then I think we’re in violation of the career we’ve chosen and the life we’re living,” he said. “I have been blessed by having someone like Dr. Litton who impacted my future and never gave up on me. It’s something we discuss often here at College of DuPage—each and every encounter by each and every employee can make a positive difference in our students’ lives. Karma in this instance is definitely at work. If you give back, you’ll get the reinforcement that what you do matters by witnessing the success of those around you. Helping people achieve is something that truly comes full circle.”
At top: College of DuPage President Robert L. Breuder makes pretzels alongside students during a visit to the Bake Shop in the Culinary & Hospitality Center. Photo by Press Photography Network/special to College of DuPage
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