Waking for sunrise activities, wearing uniforms and complying with orders, pledging an ACU social club has often been likened to the experience of boot camp.
However, unlike his fellow pledges, Joshua Hollers can empathize with the parallel.
At 36 years old, the junior business management major traded a life in Marine blue for that of Frater Sodalis blue, living proof that an “old dog” can still learn pledging tricks.
For two years, Hollers traveled back and forth from Corpus Christi to visit his two children, Brandon and Kristen, who were living with their mother in Abilene since 2010.
“On one of those long 6-hour drives to see my kids, I first heard, ‘Drive All Night’ by NeedToBreathe,” he said. “I knew something had to be done. It really inspired me to make a dramatic shift and, ‘change my path, maybe I could leave a mark.'”
Hollers said he had looked for work at Dyess AFB, but it offered mostly labor-intensive jobs, these types of careers were what he was attempting to step away from. Only a limited number of “white-collar” jobs were available. However, these jobs had required a four-year degree and Hollers had only an associate’s degree.
“So I walked away from the government and became a full-time student, again,” he said. “I haven’t looked back since, and COBA is definitely preparing me for a brighter future ahead.”
Hollers went from boot camp to business, with hopes of finding a niche of the marketing in the fitness and wellness arena.
“I would also love to bring the spiritual side to fitness,” he said. “Also, Abilene is in dire need of an active music venue. I love NeedToBreathe and their inspirational message, and I’d love to find a way to bring them and other similar groups to Abilene.”
In the classroom, Joshua said he attempted to blend in and forget about his “non-traditional student” status. Over time, though, Hollers said he came to accept his unique student stature.
Because at 36 years old, Hollers said he still stands out on a campus of 20-somethings.
“When I was registering for books my first semester the person at the counter looked at me really closely and wasn’t sure if I was a student or professor,” he said. “That was when I thought, ‘Yup. This is going to be interesting!'”
But Hollers wanted the full college experience, and clubs on campus were the most obvious choice, he said.
“It’s had a very rewarding social aspect,” he said, “to connect with a like-minded group of guys that have a wide network of connections and social activities that keep me involved and growing.”
Josh Walters, senior exercise science major from Allen and vice-president of Fraters Sodalis first met Hollers over FIFA.
“We have a tradition on Fridays, we get together to play FIFA soccer tournament,” he said. “Some members invited Hollers out that night and he brought his two kids.”
After that evening, Walters said he and his other Frat Brothers made the petition to pledge Hollers to the social club.
“And knowing he was a Marine, I knew that would also bring some unique experience to club,” he said.
Hollers made the decision to pledge Frater Sodalis because he found the social club to be most similar to his past experience in the Marine Corps.
“Brothers together,” he said. “That’s what Frats are – brothers through and through. It is the most similar to the Marine Corps I have seen in any other club, in my opinion.”
“Semper Fidelis”, which means “Always Faithful,” is both the Marine’s motto and Frater Sodalis’ foundation, he pointed out.
“I was thrilled to hear he was going to pledge Frater Sodalis,” said Frat president Elliot Klar, senior environmental science major from Juda, Wis. “I just hoped he knew what he was getting himself into.”
Having persevered a military regimen, Hollers felt adequately prepared.
“I think maybe Marine Corps boot camp taught me how to find when it’s best to see what’s best for the group as a whole rather than my poor wounded pride. I’ve learned that pride and ego is one’s worst enemy in life, and probably our most enduring one.”
But with two children, pledging had to give on occasion for Hollers to be the present father he originally moved to Abilene for.
“The members have been really understanding,” he said. “There were times I had to take my son or daughter to their games, and they were very gracious in giving me a bit of room to do what I need to do with them.”
However, no special treatment was given to Hollers, who complied with all pledge protocols.
“He followed everything to the letter, just like the other pledges,” Walter said. “He respected the traditions and the process and was even a bit of a leader in the Brat class. He wanted to be a guy that Brats and Brothers alike could come to and he would impart wisdom to because there are some things he’s already been through.
Klar said Hollers was “naturally” voted Brat Class President, making him responsible for motivating his fellow Brats and informing them of the many whats, wheres and whens.
“Homecoming weekend was interesting to say the least,” he said. “The pledges know that I’m not being bossy, I just know how to get things done. Just kidding, but seriously”¦I do.
Frats said Hollers was able to offer both inspiration and comedic relief during the tiring five-week pledge process.
“He told me some of his experiences as a Marine helped him to appreciate the process and the brotherhood that club is about,” Walters said. “Then he would jokingly complain about being the old guy when it came to some of the intramurals and things like that.”
As the “Elder Pledge” of Frats, Hollers said he hopes his re-start reminds others that second chances are never too far-gone.
“I’m living proof!” he said.