A Most Unlikely Father And Son

This is the story of a most unlikely relationship between Bob Hansman, a 59-year-old architecture professor from Washington University in St. Louis, and a 26-year-old former gang member from the projects named Jovan.

"He's the reason I have my life," Jovan tells CBS correspondent Steve Hartman for "Assignment America."

Jovan and Professor Bob met 13 years ago. Bob had volunteered to start a summer drawing class for at-risk children. Jovan was one of the brats who showed up.

"We put Bob through hell, twice," he said. "Constant fighting — not just arguing; I mean physical fist-fighting."

"I used to sit there with my face in my hands saying, 'Why don't they quit coming? Because I didn't want to quit," remembers Bob.

Some of the kids ended up learning, most ended up in jail — and Jovan ended up in a frame on Bob's desk. It's there because, like most dads, Bob likes looking at pictures of his son.

"He just kind of came out of the blue and said, 'Have you ever thought of adopting me?'" says Bob.

Jovan lived with his mom, but she was pretty much absent. He never even knew his dad. Bob had no family to speak of, either.

"Once I got to know him and care about him and see what he needed and wanted in life, and that I could do it, that's what I wanted to do," Bob says. "It was like, this is going to be a better life than anything I've had."

They now live in an apartment near Jovan's studio. Yes — he now has a studio where he sells art and does commissions. He's really turned into quite an impressive young man.


Although Bob had nothing to do with bringing him into this world, Jovan says he's had everything to do with keeping him here.

"I wanted to do something for him," says Jovan. "He saved my life, changed my life, gave me a father and gave me the talent I have. So, I'm like, how could you repay somebody like that?"

He decided one way — and one way only.

Remember that summer art program in the projects? It's back. Jovan started it up again this year. He's hoping that by returning to his old neighborhood, he'll find at least one kid like he was — someone who could really use a father figure.

And what if one of them comes up and says, "Will you adopt me?"

With a laugh, Jovan says, "I'll let Bob do it. I'll let Bob do it."

Jovan took Bob's last name and now celebrates his birthday on the day he was adopted.
  • Michelle Singer

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