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Accounting, Military, and Music: Meet Assistant Professor Bob Fitzgerald

November 28, 2022

November is National Veterans and Military Families Month. Motlow State Community College recognizes one military Veteran, Assistant Professor Bob Fitzgerald, who teaches Accounting at Motlow’s Smyrna campus.

Fitzgerald has taught at Motlow for 15 years. “Those in Business, you’ve got to go through me to get to your degree!” he declared with a smile.

He was the youngest of four children. His older sister often babysat him as a child. Rock and roll was just emerging at the time.

“Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holley…I got a constant stream of rock and roll music while sitting in the car wherever she was going. It gave me a great passion,” recalled Fitzgerald.

His grandmother bought him is first guitar at three years old. “It was as big as I was,” he said. “I used to bang on it and sing Elvis Presley songs to my mother’s bridge club.”

Beginning in December of 1969, the U.S. Selective Service National Headquarters re-instituted the lottery drawing to help strengthen the military during the Vietnam War. Rather than oldest man first, the method used since 1942, young men were given a random number tied to their birthdays and lower number were called first.

“There were 366 blue plastic capsules containing birth dates placed in a large glass container and drawn by hand to assign order-of-call numbers to all men within the 18-26 age range specified in Selective Service law,” according to the Selective Service System website.

Fitzgerald’s number in the draft lottery meant he was highly likely to be drafted. So, he took matters into his own hands and entered the military through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in college.

“Back then, I thought I was going to go to the west coast and become a rock star. Instead, I joined ROTC,” Fitzgerald said. “The 30 years I spent in the Army was then best thing for me. But I never lost my love of playing music.”

He majored in accounting while in college and entered the Army Finance Corps, responsible for ensuring Soldiers were paid, a well as dealing with money that goes into and out of the military. During his military career, he also continued playing the guitar and conducting performances. Often, at different locations where he was stationed, he would find other Soldiers who also enjoyed playing music and formed bands.

In the 1980s, Fitzgerald was stationed at the top of a hill in Turkey. There, he formed a band called “Over the Hill Gang” named after the hill they were stationed at. While there the Turkish Ambassador wanted to help spread American culture through the country. Fitzgerald’s commander offered the “Over the Hill Gang” band to tour the country on behalf of the state department.

“That was a great experience for me. The Turkish people loved us,” he said. “I felt like a rock star.”

Fitzgerald continued to form and be part of different bands wherever he was stationed. The last eight years of his military career were in Europe. He would find places for him and his bandmates to play in several different countries during that time.

“I was fortunate enough to visit practically every major European country. It was a great time in my life,” he said. “I always had a guitar handy.”

While in the Army Fitzgerald was assigned to teach at a military finance school. This is where he found he really enjoyed teaching. He retired from the Army in 2007. He opened his own music shop in Murfreesboro and began teaching Accounting at Motlow as an adjunct.

“I wanted to find a secondary school where I could teach accounting because I enjoyed doing it. Motlow was nearby. I was fortunate enough to be offered a position and I’ve been here ever since!” he exclaimed. “When I’m not teaching at Motlow, I am working with young musicians to bring out their performing abilities and to have fun playing music.”

Over the years, Fitzgerald has had several talented students come through his music shop for lessons, including some American Idol contestants—Hunter Girl being one, but also a couple of others.

Also, his wife is currently a student at the College. She started classes this fall and is a talented artist.

“The best thing about Motlow is the students. The smaller class size environment at Motlow makes it easier to get to know your students and makes Motlow a better place for students to come and learn,” he said. “Getting into teaching after I retired from the military was one of the smartest decisions I have ever made.”

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