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Growing up in Glenrothes — once deemed “the most dismal town in Scotland” — Chris Turner had a reasonable fear: “I’ve always been worried that my life would’ve been boring,” he said, “and I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something.”He should worry no more.
When Turner graduates from UC Santa Barbara June 16 with a bachelor’s degree in biological anthropology, he’ll walk across the commencement stage as a man with plenty to crow about (not that he would).
Consider: He spent 10 years jumping out of airplanes as a U.S. Army combat medic with the 82nd Airborne. He deployed to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once. Along the way he earned a Purple Heart and an Army commendation for valor. “My first deployment I got the enemy marksmanship badge,” he said. “Seemingly you’re supposed to duck. In my defense they were firing RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). They’re hard to avoid. Our vehicle got hit by two RPGs.”
He left the Army after too many rough landings — “I never had a bad jump, but I never had a good jump either” — and struggled to find work. “It’s hard to explain what a combat medic who’s jumped out of planes can really do for you in insurance,” he said in the brogue that’s softened only slightly after 23 years in America.
Eventually, Turner enrolled at Antelope Valley College and discovered anthropology and a love of bones. “I knew anatomy fairly well, and so having this experience of actually looking at bones and identifying them and re-articulating them was just amazing for me,” he said. “So that was what drew me to anthropology, specifically biological anthropology.”
That fascination with bones landed him at UCSB, where he’ll graduate with a 3.94 GPA as one of 10 members of the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares underrepresented students for Ph.D. …