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October 27, 2020

JCCC prepared alumnus for the twists and turns of life

Rob Thomason was one of 3,600 students during JCCC’s first year at the “new” campus at 12345 College Boulevard.

When Thomason attended in fall 1972, JCCC had five buildings. Now, more than 25 structures make up the campus. When he was studying criminology (now Criminal Justice), there were fewer than 20 programs offered. Now, there are more than 50.

Obviously, a lot has changed at JCCC since Thomason graduated.

On a recent visit to the campus, he was blown away by what he saw. “I nearly got lost! I am really impressed with the campus and all the growth and changes,” Thomason said, noting in particular the newly renovated Student Center and Bookstore.

Positive Attitude Is Key

"Life is a learning lesson; what you get out of it is key to what you decide for your future." - Rob Thomason

Since graduating, Thomason has led a full life. He credits JCCC for preparing him for everything life would throw at him. “All that I’ve done in my life has been based on experiences I had when I was young,” he said. “College really encouraged me to have a positive attitude regardless of what happens.”

Much of Thomason’s career has been in retail, as a store manager, warehouse manager and quality control specialist. When he moved to Lawrence, Kansas, for a job, he got involved with Haskell Indian Nations University, where he took a course in one of the Cherokee dialects. He uses that knowledge, along with his Cherokee heritage and skills, to do presentations, his most recent a first-person performance of “Sequoyah: Cherokee Man of Letters.”

After a motorcycle accident damaged his knee in 1987, resulting in five knee replacements over 20-plus years, his ability to work was eventually limited. He began dedicating much of his time as a volunteer health advocate for senior citizens.

In 2010, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Like many other times in his life, he embraced a positive attitude, then tackled the diagnosis with physical fitness. “When I tore up my knee, it opened a new door for me,” Thomason said. “I started working with seniors, helping them with their fitness.” He has been a certified water aerobics instructor for 11 years. He even wrote a book about the subject!

Thomason has also been in more than 30 community theater performances; released a CD, “Cherokee Language Sounds in Song,” in native Cherokee language; and played tennis for one year as an amateur with the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

When Thomason thinks about his time at JCCC, he says he couldn’t have done any better with his choice of college. “JCCC really helped me get started. I had no idea what was coming in my life, but it prepared me to make my future whatever I wanted it to be.”

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