Mercer Memories: Rob Sumowski

Rob Sumowski is a Mercer Alum, who teaches at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Ga. He graduated in 1989 with two BMAs in Music and Psychology. His collection of signed NASA photos and articles was on display last year in the Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences. Sumowski is now compiling a collection of World War II memorabilia that is five years in the making.
Cluster: What made you choose Mercer?
Sumowski: They had the coolest display table when they came to my high school. Everybody was real nice. They had a pretty good music department, and I was offered a scholarship. It was between here and The Citadel, believe it or not, because I went to a military school, back in Savannah. I almost went that route. Then when they offered me the music scholarship, it was great.
C: What instrument did you play?
S: I was a percussionist. I came here in ‘85, and graduated in ‘89. I was the drummer in the Mercer Big Band, and I did orchestral ensembles. I don’t know if you’re on scholarship, but usually when you are, it’s indentured servitude. So, basically, any time the music department said “You’re going to play,” you just had to do it.
C: Why did you choose your majors?
S: I came in as a business major, actually, but I’m just not a business type of guy. Music was required, but what I really wanted was a psychology degree. I did the music degree for Mercer, because that was a requirement, due to the scholarship, and that allowed me to get the psych. degree that I wanted.
C: What sorts of clubs and organizations were you a part of?
S: I was an SAE – a social fraternity. I was in Phi Mu Alpha, which was a professional music fraternity. That was fun. I played in all the bands, here and on-campus. I was a senior senator in SGA.
C: Did you do any sorts of big performances outside of Mercer’s music program, here?
S: Oh, yeah, I spent the ’90s on the road with a bunch of bands, ranging from Gypsy Train to the Go Go Girls to Kevin Kinney from Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’. Shawn Mullins and I did four records together with Colombia. Kristian Bush, who’s now part of a country band called Sugarland – he and I were on the road together for a little while. So, yeah, when I left here, I kind of ended up in the Atlanta acoustic scene, which was a really cool place to be in, during the ’90s.
C: Now, earlier before the interview, you mentioned the co-op. What was your favorite place to hang out on campus?
S: Yeah, we would hang out in the co-op; that was where everybody went to smoke, every day. They always had a break at 10 o’clock, for chapel hour, and nobody ever went to chapel. It was basically social hour, so we would always spend it there.
C: What was your best memory at Mercer?
S: Mercer was a great place to be in the ’80s. It was a lot more open. A lot different than it is now – a lot smaller and more laid-back. I always liked the way the professors would interact with the students. We had a good relationship with them. I remember Tom Trimble. He would throw erasers. If you weren’t paying attention, he would whip out these chalk-board erasers. One day, I got there early, and I gathered all the erasers in the entire Knight Hall, in the whole second floor. I loaded them all up with chalk dust and put them behind the student desks. I gave a signal in class and we all got up and threw erasers at him. He started throwing erasers at us, and he’s hiding behind the desk. He’s this big, verbose kind of guy. It was just this kind of stuff – the interaction with professors.
C: What is the most notable thing you learned from your time at Mercer?
S: To think for myself. I attribute that to my professors. These guys, they let us screw up. They let us get our head underwater without letting us drown. In other words, they worked with us. I wasn’t the best student in the world as an undergrad, but since then I’ve gotten three more degrees and I’m published and whatnot. In the end it all worked out.