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Galen McAndrew’s Early Years

By Jadene Auerbach

A young McAndrew

Everyone knows Mr. McAndrew as the guy who mans the DRG, but who is he and where did he come from? In this three-part question and answer series, I sat down with Galen McAndrew to learn more about his life before d.tech.

Part I, “Galen McAndrew’s Early Years,” tells the story of his years at “Hogwarts School for Dorks” and his struggles with college.

Q: Where were you born?

I was born outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, which is a medium-sized town in east Tennessee, foothills of the Smoky Mountains.

Q: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in an 800-square-foot cabin that my dad built, even further outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, and lived there until 2001 when I was starting high school, and then we moved to Asheville, North Carolina.

McAndrew wearing a diaper with mom and brother

Q: Where did you go to high school?

I did two years at a medium-sized public high school outside of Asheville and then applied for the North Carolina School of Science and Math, which is the oldest public residential magnet school in the country. It’s only open to residents of the state of North Carolina and it’s only your junior and senior year of high school, and you apply like you’re applying to college with essays and letters of recommendation and interviews and testing. If you get accepted, it’s free, but you have to live on campus. And it’s in Durham, next to Duke University. It’s an old Civil War hospital.

Q: Why did you choose to go there?

When I heard about the school, it was basically like Hogwarts School for Dorks. As soon as my guidance counselor was telling me about it, I was like, “this is an opportunity for me to get away from the football players and religious zealots and general haters of all things intellectual, and go to a high school that values education, intellect, creativity, being different…” It’s also an opportunity to get out of the house and away from my crazy family two years early. And they had legislation that any graduate from that high school got automatic four-year tuition to any North Carolina public university, and since my parents had no money saved for college, I knew that […] if I was going to go to college, I would need to basically, like, pay my own way and get scholarships. So, it was an opportunity to say, “this is going to seriously level me up in getting out of my situation.”

 

McAndrew builds his first prototype as brother provides user feedback

Q: What did you do after high school?

Once I got to Hogwarts School for Dorks and Dorkery, I totally loved it, and it was amazing, and it was the first place that felt like home. And it felt so much like where I needed to be, that it was actually a little bit crippling, because once I got there, I didn’t want to leave. And it became this problem where, as soon as I moved out of the house, my brother was away at community college, I was gone, so my parents separated, and they were not really available to me to encourage me, or check in with me, or help me with the college search.

I ended up choosing University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, because it was free, it’s a pretty good school, it was close, a lot of students from the School of Science and Math go on to Chapel Hill, so I knew people. But I knew, even going into it, that it was not really the best fit for me, that it was definitely settling, and it was definitely settling out of insecurity.

Once I got to Hogwarts School for Dorks and Dorkery, I totally loved it, and it was amazing

I started with a BS in Biology, because I had always loved biology, and I was a TA for two years at Science and Math, and those were always my favorite classes. But everybody that was a BS in biology, [which] was the most popular major at Chapel Hill, was pre-med. Everybody would say, “Oh, you’re either going to go to med school or go into research,” and I was like, “I don’t want to do either of those.”

McAndrew learns the importance of the right tool for the job

My sophomore year, I started flipping through all the course options, and all the psychology courses were much more interesting. I took Psych 101 second semester of sophomore year, and then, basically, from that point on, started doubling up on courses, and graduated a semester late so that I could do a double major. So I have a BS in Biology and a BS in Psychology, with a minor in Chemistry.

 

Stay tuned for more juicy details on Mr. McAndrew and his personal evolution…

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