Suffolk dad balances family, work, school

Published 9:42 pm Friday, December 11, 2009

After working an eight-hour day and helping his wife put their three children to bed, one Suffolk dad doesn’t sit back and relax. He studies.

Brian Hamilton, 38, is a husband, father and an engineering technician for Northrop Grumman. Next Saturday, he will walk across the stage at Penn State University to accept his bachelor’s degree in Law and Society, one of Penn State’s pre-law programs. He took the LSAT in September and is in the process of applying to 16 law schools.

“I just do what everyone else is doing — just with classes on top of that,” Hamilton said. “[My wife and I] are big believers in learning something new every day. I got to show my kids that you’re never too old to go back to school.”

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After high school, Hamilton attended Georgia Tech for a year but decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy. After eight and a half years, he went to work for Northrop Grumman and later to an ethanol developing company. He is currently back at Northrop Grumman.

“I’d gotten into engineering because when I was a kid my parents loved the idea of me being an engineer — and I loved tinkering with things,” he said.

But after he returned to Northrop Grumman, he realized he wasn’t doing what he wanted and that “life was too short for that.” While he was there, however, “I got a chance to be involved with contracts and negotiations and realized that was what I would really like to be involved with — and you need a law degree to do a lot of that,” Hamilton said.

So, he enrolled with Penn State’s on-line program.

“I fit six semesters into two years. That’s three years for most people, but I was getting a little old to be working on my B.A. I was trying to get done,” Hamilton said. He was able to transfer credits he received from Georgia Tech and his time in the Navy.

His biggest concern and challenge he had to consider before enrollment was time management, he said.

“I didn’t want to do this and take away time from my kids. I love being with my kids and didn’t want to take away time from being with them,” he said. “[After classes started,] I would study while they were doing things … or after they went to bed.”

Hamilton’s wife said he has done a great job balancing his roles as father, husband, provider, and student.

“It blows my mind what he’s been able to accomplish,” said Janelle Hamilton, his wife. “We have three kids — two which make a lot of noise. And, unfortunately, he’s left with them a lot while I’m working. He has a lot of responsibilities.”

The couple say they both hope it shows their children and others the importance of following their dreams — no matter how old they get.

“Don’t let yourself get stuck in something if you don’t like it. Keep going after your dreams no matter how old you get or how stuck you get,” Hamilton said.