ST. PETERSBURG — Richard Ramdohr usually sat in the back rows of his college classes.
He hoped his classmates wouldn't notice his age. He hoped his work would speak for itself.
"At some point people realized it," he said this week, a few days before becoming the youngest-ever person to receive a bachelor's degree from St. Petersburg College. "But I didn't really want to stand on that."
Ramdohr, who turned 18 in December, would rather people know him by his love of numbers, his natural aptitude and devotion to learning that impressed teachers throughout his accelerated career.
"He was one of the students who always came in early, always left late, and asked very, very good questions beyond the material," SPC professor Robin Wilber said. "I've had other students who are very smart, but I've never had a student this age who's accomplished so much and so well."
Out of 72 students in Wilber's financial management class a couple of years ago, Ramdohr scored the highest average. She only learned his age afterward, when she found him tutoring math in the college's learning center. She asked him how old he was. He was 16.
"How mature for him to be able to do that and to be put into a situation where he's tutoring students 10 years older than him," she said. "I said, 'Would you mind if I sent in students from the finance class to be tutored?' "
Ramdohr of St. Petersburg was a kindergartner when his parents realized he needed more of a challenge. He skipped one grade, then two. His dad began homeschooling him in fourth grade. From an early age, he found joy in crossword puzzles, encyclopedias and languages, his mother said.
Next came dual enrollment, then his GED. A month or so later, he earned his associate's degree from SPC. Now, he's turning his tassel years before most of his peers. The school's commencement is today at Tropicana Field.
Along the way, Ramdohr marked moments of success — a 100 on his first bachelor's-level final in finance, the realization that math is all about the fundamentals — but always kept the future in mind.
"I could've partied, I could've done all these other things. But the more I get done now, the more I can do later," he said.
"We didn't know he would accomplish all of this," said his mother, Etje. "We are very proud of him, of course. Whatever he takes on, he is 100 percent committed to it, and he wanted to try his best and he did."
After graduating with a bachelor's in business administration, focus on financial services — with near-perfect grades — Ramdohr plans to take it easy this summer. That means a full-time job as a credit analyst at First Home Bank, where he was brought on at age 17 after SPC's business faculty sang his praises.
"We were kind of skeptical, but we interviewed him and we were like, 'Wow, he'll be great,' and he has been," said bank CEO Anthony Leo. "We saw all the makings of a fine young man."
Ramdohr doesn't envision a future as a business hotshot or magazine cover subject. He doesn't have a dream job and doesn't want any future plan to define him. He just loves unraveling the mysteries of numbers, taking a sheet of digits and finding the invisible patterns within.
"I like peeking into the way it works," he said. "I like taking it and breaking it apart and getting into the meat of things."
He'll look into continuing his education in the fall, perhaps with a master's in business administration or an advanced degree in finance or accounting.
"I love what I do, so I do a lot of it," he said. But he makes sure he keeps a balance. "I do enjoy life," he says with a laugh.
He doesn't plan to walk at commencement. He just wants to stop by the ceremony to pick up a program, congratulate some fellow grads, and be on his way. No pomp and circumstance.
After all, he says, "there's more to be done."
There's always the next day of work, and the next degree.
Contact Claire McNeill at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.