College isn’t the only option


Ryleigh Hyma

Glenn Zandstra, 63, lounged in his screened-in porch during a cool fall morning with a mug of hot, black coffee, and he contemplated what to do for the day.

   He could go to his pole barn, which includes a bathroom, several lounge chairs, plenty of woodworking tools, and a vintage John Deere Model A tractor, to mess around with his 3D printer and VR gaming system. On the other hand, he could stay inside his house, which he built in 2008, and watch a movie using his 4K projector.

Zandstra is an intelligent man, able to use technology most others his age wouldn’t know anything about. Zandstra worked hard to have a successful life, but surprisingly his success did not involve college.

   Like many other students, Zandstra struggled throughout school. He possessed the intelligence to succeed, but he never felt school was fitting for him.

   “I didn’t have the self-discipline needed to succeed at college,” Zandstra said.

   By the end of his senior year at Hudsonville High School, Zandstra decided to skip college and go straight into work. Besides college not being possible financially, Zandstra didn’t know what field he would pursue. “I was just glad to be out of high school,” Zandstra said.

   Over and over again he was told that success meant college, but he made other plans.

   Right out of high school, Zandstra worked for two years as a draftsman for a company called Rapid Design, in Michigan. He drew detailed technical plans for the designing, engineering, and building of tools.

   He also was contracted out to companies that needed their services. Herman Miller was his second contract. Due to his constant on the job improvement, they offered him a permanent position within months.

   He became an official, full-time Herman Miller employee in December of 1979, just a month before his first child was born. He was 24.

“I learn best by doing, not listening to lectures and studying.” Zandstra learned all about technology and engineering through hands-on experience and hard work. Zandstra slowly realized that a college degree would never be necessary for him. He had found success in a field he enjoyed without spending the extra money.

   Earning four separate promotions accompanied by raises, Zandstra worked his way up in the company. He still works a comfortable, supportive job doing computer repairs for Herman Miller. 

   Zandstra is thankful he can provide a 4.5-acre lot of land with a two-thousand-square-foot home where he can spend time with his three kids and eleven grandkids.

“I don’t regret not getting a college education, but that doesn’t mean I’m against college.” Zandstra succeeded without getting a college degree because of his hard work and determination. Success is not dependent on college-level education, simply the amount of work that someone is willing to put in and the kind of person who is working towards that success.