Emory Report
May 18, 2009
Volume 61, Number 31

Robert and Matthew Emory Pitts

Robert and William Pitts


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May 18
, 2009
Diploma dash for Pitts family

By Carol Clark

When Robert Pitts walked across the platform on May 11 to receive his undergraduate degree in biology, his family shouted from the audience: “It’s about time!”

Pitts, 50, enrolled in Emory College in 1977. “Neither of my parents were college educated,” he said. “They owned a country grocery store in Flowery Branch, and they paid for my education without financial aid or loans.”

When he was accepted by Emory School of Medicine in his junior year, he applied for early admission and got it, enabling him to skip his senior year. “I was just possessed to get through my undergraduate years quickly, because my parents were struggling to pay for it,” Pitts said.

Pitts and his wife, Patti, had three sons while he was in medical school. He went on to become a successful ear, nose and throat doctor in Carrollton, Ga.

His eldest son, Ben, attended the University of Georgia. But his second son, William, enrolled at Emory in 2005, and started ribbing his father. “I told him that I was going to get an undergraduate degree before he did,” recalled William, a music composition major.

Robert Pitts took up the challenge, contacting the dean’s office at Emory to see what he needed to do to complete his degree. It turned out that he had biology credits from medical school to qualify for his undergraduate degree.

He was able to beat his son to a diploma by a few minutes, due to an alphabetical advantage. “But Will trumped me in the end,” Pitts said. “He graduated with highest honors.”

There are no hard feelings, he added. “Afterward, I bought T-shirts for Will and I: ‘Emory Class of 2009.’ We’ll go to the same college reunions.”

Just two days earlier, Pitts’ youngest son graduated from Oxford College. His name is Matthew Emory Pitts, after his father’s alma mater. “Emory’s a big part of our lives,” Robert Pitts said.