19-Year-Old Hopkins Grad
The Johns Hopkins University's 2002 commencement ceremony
takes place Thursday, May 23
If Glen Taylor's childhood home hadn't been destroyed by fire, he might not be graduating cum laude from The Johns Hopkins University at age 19. And if the political science major hadn't had a chance meeting with a Marine Corps recruiter on the Homewood campus his freshman year, 2nd Lt. Taylor is sure to have chosen a different career path, perhaps one involving a stethoscope rather than stealthy wartime tactics.
Taylor is one of about 1,000 seniors graduating from the Johns Hopkins schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering on Thursday, May 23. Degrees will be conferred during a university-wide commencement ceremony at 9:15 a.m. Seniors will be awarded their diplomas during a second ceremony at 1:45 p.m.
Taylor's journey to Johns Hopkins began when he was 4. A house-fire forced the Taylor family to leave its home in rural Millboro, Va. While his father stayed behind to rebuild, the rest of the family temporarily relocated to Richmond. Once the family settled in, Taylor was enrolled in a Montessori pre-school. There, teachers discovered that young Glen was academically ahead of his peers.
"It was a very customized school," Taylor says. "It was an open room full of books and math stuff. We learned what we wanted to learn, at our own pace."
When he rejoined his former class after the family returned to Millboro the following year, his teachers discovered that he was reading at a seventh-grade level and was accelerated in mathematics. His parents met with the teachers and the group agreed Taylor could skip two grades, third and fourth. He later skipped eighth grade as well, and graduated from high school at 15.
Younger and smaller than the students in his classes, Taylor turned to competitive sports teams to prove his mettle. "Wrestling, soccer, weight-lifting, managing the football team -- I tried to get involved with sports where size didn't matter so much," Taylor says. He also participated in theater and the band. While trying to fit in, Taylor discovered he had a knack for getting along with different types of people, a trait that he says has played a key role in his success with the Marine Corps.
Taylor's military training began the summer after his sophomore year at Johns Hopkins -- he wanted to go during the summer after his freshman year, but at 16, he was too young by Marine Corps' standards. By the following summer, he was more than ready to go to Quantico, Va., for boot camp.
"It was just so exciting," Taylor says, eyes lighting up below his military crew-cut and above his black USMC T- shirt. "It was challenging all the time."
Before meeting the Marine Corps recruiter, Taylor was intent on tackling a wholly different challenge: becoming a doctor. When he was 8, he read a newspaper article about a study being conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh who were determining the effects of lead paint exposure on childhood development. He wrote a letter to the lead investigator, and was asked to participate as an unofficial junior researcher. With that early experience, everyone thought he was well on his way to earning an M.D. But the idea of medical school didn't give him the charge that the prospect of a career in the military brought him.
"I like where I see myself now," Taylor says. "Five years from now, I could be a captain in charge of 150 people." With a medical career, "five years out ... I'd be a resident making nothing, but with huge med school bills to pay."
After graduation, he'll spend six months in infantry training, honing his combat skills. He's already completed the two-summer officer training school, or Platoon Leaders Class, a physically and mentally challenging program designed for students who "desire to master the true art of leadership," says Capt. James E. Richardson Jr., an officer selection officer. Taylor was ranked first in his class of 143 peers. The distinction earned him the Marines' Commandant's Trophy last December.
Though embarking on a career in the military is a different prospect now after Sept. 11 than it was when Taylor first started his training, he says he is up to the challenge.
"I think it worries my parents," Taylor says. "But it's even more exciting for me now. It's a chance to make a real difference. No one in the military really wants to go to war, but that is what we are always training for."
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