This week we chat with Rene and Dee Anderson, who are stand-in parents for more than 300 young men at Florida College in Temple Terrace. The Andersons are the dormitory advisers at Boswell Hall, a five-story residence hall for about 330 men at the liberal arts college at North Glen Arven Avenue and Bullard Parkway. The couple have been married 42 years and are the parents of two adult children. They're beginning their 19th year as dorm parents. Rene Anderson, 65, is a King High graduate and met Dee, 63, at Florida College when he returned to Tampa after serving four years in the Air Force. Dee Anderson is originally from Arizona.
Being a dorm parent requires a lot of patience, tolerance and a desire to treat hundreds of young men like your own children. Why do you continue to do it after all these years?
Answer: Over the years we have had several young men stay with us. An exchange student from Germany; a young man for the summer from Croatia; and just a place for others who needed a place to crash. When we were first approached for this position, our daughter was a student at Florida College. We knew her friends and also former classmates had children who were also attending Florida College. Being around young people also keeps (you) young and up on current happenings.
You open your apartment nightly to serve the men grill cheese sandwiches? What is that experience like?
We begin making grilled cheese sandwiches from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. during the weeknights and from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on the weekend. The times that these boys come into our apartment is so enlightening. This is the time we bond with the boys as they rehash the day's events, problems and girls. We learn about their homes, their families, and what hometown teams they will be rooting for during the sports season.
College dorm life requires a lot of late nights. How many hours of sleep do you get each day?
Sleep is at a minimum during the school year. That is what summers are for: rest and sleep. We do try to go to bed by 2 a.m. and wake by 7:30 a.m. We also take a daily nap. The boys know even though we are in bed, we are still available for them if they need us. Occasionally someone will burn the popcorn, and the fire alarm goes off. The fire department also will come when a student is sick and needs some medication, but overall that is rare.
What are the best and worst things about being a dorm parent?
The best thing about this position is seeing the boys mature over the years we have them in the dorm. The boys come unsure, not serious about school, or life. When they return years later, these young men are doctors, dentists, preachers, and great fathers. These are the same boys who put our truck on the stage of the auditorium, threw TVs out the windows at 4 a.m. just to hear them crash, or Rene having to tell them to put the alligator back in the river that they just caught. Seriously, some of the young men who work at the school now were once some of the boys we had in the dorm. The hardest part is saying goodbye at the end of every school year. You get really close to many of the boys and that bond remains long over the years.
What was the strangest dish a student ever asked you to make?
At the request of one of the boys, I added brown sugar to the grilled cheese sandwiches. The young man requested this because this is how his mom made them in Texas. Adding the brown sugar has now made the sandwiches more popular and is a school favorite. Last school year I made over 6,000 grilled cheese sandwiches and wore out two sandwich grills. We opened hours before curfew so the girls could also come and purchase a sandwich. If you think boys eat a lot, do not rule out girls!