It is not every day that an adult daughter gets to write a note about her dad to celebrate his college graduation.
My dad, Ronald Thomas, started at the University of Mobile in 1983 as an undergraduate student in the adult degree program, then called the Center for Professional Studies (CAP). He chose to go back to school because his employer was waiving all tuition costs for anyone wanting to complete their degree.
I can remember, my brother being as young as 4 and myself around 8 years old, watching my dad placing all of his books on the kitchen table and starting his homework as we were headed to bed. Of course, this was after a long day at work, ball games, our homework, and preparations for the next day. My dad could only take 1-2 classes a semester and, at the time, they were 16-week semesters.
He was 6 classes into his program when his sister passed away from colon cancer at the age of 34. They were less than two years apart, and her death was devastating to our family. Finally, in 1987 he chose to take some time off from classes. He told us all he would finish – he just needed a break.
He did start back in 1995 and completed all of his requirements for the CAP program, which was about the first two years of college. But the thought of still being 43 hours short of degree requirements for a bachelor’s deterred him again.
Finally, in 2015 he chose to finish what he started and enrolled in the Adult & Professional Studies program at the University of Mobile. He will say that the decision to finish was because of his grandchildren, Cameron (13) and Kinsley (8). He said, “how can I ask them to go to college and finish their goals if I will not complete my own?”
My mom has been his typist and the person he practices his speeches to each week. She herself has learned a great deal along the way. They call their study the “War Room” because, starting at 8 a.m. on Monday when online assignments open, they are feverishly working to get papers typed and PowerPoint’s printed. She has often kidded that her name will fit nicely somewhere on his diploma. They are a team, without a doubt!
Of course, a lot has changed since he first started school in 1983 and again in 1995. Computers dominate everything. His biggest challenge was learning the online class format, since he was more of a face-to face-type learner. My dad’s first class back on campus was with Dr. Robert Olsen, which turned out to be one of the best he has taken at UMobile. He absolutely loved his Speech class this past semester with Mrs. Brenda Davis. She was tough, but honest about things he needed to work on to become a better speaker. The Nutrition course with Mrs. Allison Henry was also a big turning point. After her class, my parents revaluated their food in their pantry and shopped smarter for healthier items. It is interesting to see how he takes what he learns and puts things into action. He is using this time to better himself in every way, and it is incredible to see.
So, as of today, he has completed 37 hours of coursework in 1 years’ time, and will finish the final few hours this summer. My 66-year-old dad is part of the University of Mobile Class of 2016. He is now retired, and his reason for finishing this degree is not monetary, it is simply about achieving a goal that started 33 years ago.
Congratulations, Dad. You did it! We are so proud of you.