‘I enjoyed every minute of it’
Five years ago, Marvin Griffin landed the perfect job combining his knowledge of airplanes, military protocol and a degree in wildlife biology.
The route to being wildlife biologist at Robins Air Force Base took a few extra twists and turns along the way, but it never would have been possible without decades of life experiences before becoming a college student in his 50s. Griffin made the most of his time as an undergraduate student, and today relishes his civilian position reducing bird-aircraft collisions.
“The job is a great fit because it’s using stuff I’ve accomplished through my life,” said Griffin, who served four years in the Air Force and another two in the Air Force Reserves after graduating from high school. He later worked as an airplane mechanic and received his pilot’s license. “And then I had the qualifications for being a biologist from graduating from Warnell—it all fit so perfectly. It was a smooth transition because I already knew the customs and courtesies of the Air Force.”
Griffin decided to get his degree later in life, after the Great Recession dried up one job opportunity after another. “So, I told my wife, I’m going to go back to college.”
He started taking core classes at Georgia Gwinnett College with a goal of studying aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech. But when he called the university’s admissions office, the response wasn’t encouraging.
“So, I went on the UGA website, started looking at majors and saw wildlife sciences—I’ve been hunting and trapping and being outdoors all my life,” said Griffin. He applied and was accepted. “I started going there every day, driving back and forth from my house in Lawrenceville.”
More than a few times he was asked if he was a professor, but it didn’t faze him. And Griffin relished being a college student—he sat in the front row in classes and was an active member of multiple clubs, including the American Fisheries Society, The Wildlife Society, UGA Forestry Club and Xi Sigma Pi. He received nominations for the Blue Key Honor Society and the UGA President’s Award.
Griffin keeps in touch with his classmates, despite any difference in age. He even served on Warnell’s Alumni Steering Committee to stay involved after graduation.
About a year after graduating—and spending time as a caddy for a friend who is a professional golfer—Griffin accepted a position with the USDA Wildlife Services division based in Athens. In 2017 the position at Warner Robins opened up as part of the military’s Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard program.
Even though Griffin is nearing a traditional retirement age, he’s happy right where he is. And if you enjoy your job, what’s the point of retiring, anyway?
“My time at Warnell was really good. It was a challenge—all that memorization,’” he said. “But we had a good time and I enjoyed every minute of it.”