Pen and paper notetaking is still alive


Picture: courtesy of Gilbert O’Brien 

Gilbert O’Brien defies the odds of an age gap and goes back to college in his early 50s.  

Tiffany Persaud, Features & Lifestyle Editor

Staring out from his window sipping his large cup of coffee, Gilbert O’Brien questions himself, “Damn, what do I do now?” Post-retirement is enjoyable for 70-year-olds with a beach house in Florida, but O’Brien, now 55 years old, felt like he was missing something even after a fulfilling, stable career in law enforcement.  

So, after some reflection, he decided to apply for undergraduate school at Iona in 2019 as a criminal justice student. When O’Brien first attended college in his younger days, he regretfully was not as good a student as he should’ve been. Cutting out from his four-year degree early, O’Brien went to the police academy, graduated and was off to the start of his life and his family. 

He spent two decades as a state policeman, seven years on the road and thirteen years as a detective in the major crime unit and in the bureau of criminal investigation. He then made a move to Texas as an investigator for the district attorney’s office in San Antonio. He re-sparked a longtime romance and got married to his wife from the Bronx, so he finally made the move up north.  

O’Brien’s wife has been his biggest supporter throughout his career and collegiate journey. If proofreading your loved one’s paper doesn’t scream “I love you,” then what does? She’s also his main inspiration in the teaching field as she’s a teacher herself.  

O’Brien will also be obtaining a master’s degree in hopes of landing his final full-time job as a professor. He comes with firsthand life experience and stories to share with his classmates now and students in the future. 

Since retiring, O’Brien considers his studies his full-time job. His 22-year-old son has already established himself in the Marines, so O’Brien centers learning as his main responsibility. He uses his computer at home to write papers and complete online assignments. However, when in a classroom, he has his pen in hand ready to scribble down all the information that professors of criminal justice, like Dr. Paul O’Connell, are relaying to the class.  

“These kids nowadays are set up like NASA,” O’Brien joked. 

To those looking to going back to school, regardless of your age, O’Brien highly encourages everyone to obtain some level of college education.  

“Over my career I look at all the opportunities I missed and regret not toughing it out when I first went to college,” O’Brien said. “If you got the time, do it. I’m focusing on my grades to eventually get a PHD. I figured if you’re going to be a bear be a grizzly and go all out.”  

As a little boy, he wanted to be a policeman. Now with all the valuable lessons learned on how to positively serve a community, he wants to teach real-life situations to the upcoming generations of police officers, for their protection or whomever they’re protecting, since police training has not been up to par recently.  

Usually, people go to college then establish a career, but O’Brien did things a little differently, which by the way, is totally normal. Everyone is different to begin with, so why take the beaten path everyone is on if it doesn’t suit you?