Antywane Robinson — soon to be one of the first graduates of Temple University's Bachelor of General Studies program — knows a little something about the dedication and determination it takes to be a champion.
During his senior year at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, his team won a national championship in basketball. Over two years, his record was 65-1, and the one loss, according to Robinson, only came when the other team cheated.
"(LA Laker) Carmelo Anthony was my teammate in my senior year. That year we had nine Division I athletes on a high school team, which is unheard of," said Robinson, 37, now living with his wife Sheena and his family in San Diego, CA. "That was my first championship. It showed me how hard work really pays off. A winning team takes an enormous amount of dedication, teamwork and drive; it doesn't just happen. I won't ever forget it — I made brothers for life from that opportunity and being on that team."
Robinson was recruited by Temple University in the summer of 2002. A personal visit from then Coach John Chaney helped his parents, Andre and Eleanor Robinson, know that their son would thrive in the City of Brotherly Love.
"I packed up my stuff and my mom and dad drove me to Cecil B. Moore and Broad that summer," he said. "I originally wanted to be an accountant and was in the Fox School, then switched my focus toward a Liberal Arts degree."
What followed was 16 years of Temple Basketball, a trip to the NBA and a 13-year professional career all over Europe. According to Robinson, however, after all of his success he was still missing one valued prize — his Temple degree.
"I was mulling around the idea of returning to the classroom for two or three years prior to jumping into the Bachelor of General Studies program. I reached out to (then) Coach Fran Dunphy at the time, and he introduced me to Justin Miller (Temple's Senior Associate Athletic Director)," he said. "At the time I was playing basketball in France and then in Turkey the following year. There was no way that I could take the classes — one would have been in-person on campus — to complete my Liberal Arts degree."
Within the past year, Robinson said, "I reached out to (Miller) again and said I was ready to register."
"That was when he said, 'I have a better solution for you' and introduced me to the Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) program. I had more than enough credits — all I needed to do was take the capstone course and another elective," he said. "My goal was to finish what I started back in 2002 when I was a freshman and first arrived on Broad Street. Now I've got several sets of eyes (daughter Dajanelle, 15, son Alyjah, 9, and Aneesa, 7) looking at me like 'You're going to tell me to complete something, but you don't have to?' That was another driving force behind it."
Robinson said his family was a strong guiding light when he determined to finish his degree.
"My grandparents, Howard and Elnora Cuthbertson, were very important to my life growing up. They have been my backbone; they've kept me grounded alongside my mother and my father," he said. "They've always told me never forget where you came from, trust in the Lord, you can do anything you can possibly imagine. My grandfather was another driving force behind finishing my degree. Living in a two-bedroom, one bathroom house with my mom, my uncle, my aunt and then my two grandparents that just opened my eyes up to so much more in life — I thank them continuously to this day."
Robinson said the ability to take his BGS courses online "was really a form of therapy."
"I got to choose classes that I could relate to. I took a class that talked about politics in America and gender bias, issues that are so relevant to society today," he said. "When it came to the capstone course, the class provided me an opportunity for a lot of self-reflection on where I started and where I am today and what I plan on doing in the future. It's a perfect course for people to finish their degree."
In the capstone, Robinson said, "you pick a topic and explore how it affects you and how it affects the world."
"I looked at my time in the financial world after retirement, my time as an athlete, and now my time as a surgical trauma consultant with Stryker — one of the prerequisites to move forward with the company was to finish my degree. My mentor, Ben Torsney (Assistant Professor of Instruction in Temple's College of Education and Human Development), gave me the topic of John Henryism, which I didn't even realize I was already incorporating into my life," he said. "It was fascinating — I got lost in the research. I began to realize why I approached certain things in the way that I did all the way back to high school and college. It was a powerful, eye-opening experience."
Reflecting on his first time as a student athlete at Temple, "what pushed me to leave Temple at the time when I was so close to finishing the degree was my window to become a professional athlete."
"I had received an invitation to go to the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando, FL. I went down there and I did really well. I had some opportunities to be on some NBA teams — the Atlanta Hawks and the Sixers for their pre-season," he said. "After that, I had a wonderfully prolific career in Europe. I got to travel the world and I learned so much; I'm older and more mature now. I believe I'm a much more cultured human being and can truly appreciate what I'm learning in class right now instead of being that crazy teenager coming in with eyes wide open trying to figure out my future."
Robinson played professionally in France for seven years, Italy for one year, Turkey for three years "and Russia and Portugal as well — "Lisbon is one of the most beautiful cities in the world," he said.
"Playing in France was my first experience being in Europe. I flew out of Newark, NJ, flew into Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and then traveled to Pau in the south of France right on the border with Spain," he said. "I knew a little French, but not nearly enough. That was eye-opening, initially not being able to always communicate in the way I wanted to."
Robinson said he immersed himself in the culture, "which was one of my best experiences — I became fluent in French."
"When I came back, new experiences and new knowledge had become so much more intriguing; it makes you want to learn and it makes you realize the value of every educational opportunity," he said. "My son Alyjah was born in Italy. Turkey was by far one of my best experiences ever. Istanbul and the people, they were so welcoming — they treated me, my wife, and my kids like we were family".
His 13 years overseas, Robinson said, benefited him tremendously.
"You develop a more global perspective and a greater understanding of the world around you," he said. "I had a greater appreciation coming back to school because when I was in Europe, I was learning new cultures, new languages, different ways of life all the time."
Today, so close to having his degree in hand, Robinson is reflecting again on his experiences, something he will share with his classmates and their families as one of the student speakers at the first Bachelor of General Studies Graduation Ceremony on Thursday, May 5.
"For me, I want to talk about my journey and how special it is to complete this, how much it means to my family and means to me — showing my kids that when you start something you should finish it because that's for no one else, that's for yourself. To see the joy and the excitement on my mom's face — I sent my cap and gown to my mother's house and told her to open it up," he said. "She put her hands in the air and had the biggest smile. My mom throughout my professional career, she thought that was great, but I saw the most joy from my mom in that moment."
Robinson's advice to other adult learners thinking about finishing what they started is simple — "take the first step."
"That first step is the hardest one to get out of the way. Once you take that first step and you take each class and put in the work day by day, a day comes along when you realize you've made it," he said. "Less than a year ago, I was still mulling over whether to come back to school or not and now I'm graduating. Just take that first step because it will lead you to completing your goals."
For more information about the Bachelor of General Studies program and how to apply for admission or reenroll, contact the University College Academic and Student Services team at 215-204-6565 or BGSadmissions@temple.edu.