In most cases, the 20 graduating SCE students have juggled families, jobs, school and various other life challenges. Many of their stories are moving examples of perseverance and dedication, while others are about long-awaited fulfillment of academic goals. The theme is universal as Wittenberg SCE offers students outside the traditional framework an opportunity to obtain a top-flight education and an experience of a lifetime.
"At each adult orientation session, I relate to the students that they are about to embark on a journey – a journey that will be different for each of them," said Elma Lee Moore, dean of SCE. "I encourage them to consider the commitment that their families make for them to succeed in their educational aspirations.
"Adult students sacrifice time with their families and forgo earnings while enrolled at Wittenberg. It is important for the adult to include their family in the journey and make them a part of it."
Individual stories of SCE graduates never fail to amaze.
Carl "Butch" Hillman started at Wittenberg as a traditional student in 1985, earning a pair of varsity letters as a contributor to the Tiger football program. He left the university without a degree, but he never gave up on his dream of earning a diploma from Wittenberg. Twenty-four years and two hip replacement surgeries later, Hillman has fulfilled his promise to himself and will be awarded a degree in organizational leadership.
Sam Mulkey didn't start out at Wittenberg, but he did begin his collegiate career the same year as Hillman at Clark Technical College. After completing his degree, he enrolled at Wittenberg in 1990, but work and family commitments delayed his plans to earn a bachelor's degree. Nonetheless, he stuck with it, completing a senior seminar project on volunteer firefighters and their dedication to community service while finishing with an outstanding grade point average.
Like Mulkey, many SCE students transfer to Wittenberg from one or more schools, and many have had to endure lengthy commutes to attend classes. Six 2009 SCE graduates have gained membership in Wittenberg's Eta chapter of Alpha Sigma Lambda (ASL), the national adult honorary. Eight of the students – nearly half of this year's graduating class – have earned Latin honors cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude, which signify students with grade point averages of 3.5 or higher.
One of the Latin honors recipients is Stephanie Tirey, who will continue her education in the fall at the prestigious Fletcher School for International Studies at Tufts University while also continuing her work at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in nearby Dayton. After spending part of her childhood in Germany as part of a military family, Tirey earned associate's degrees in science and the arts from Clark State Community College before transferring to Wittenberg to major in German.
Others include Laura O'Connor, who will conclude her Wittenberg career with a 3.948 grade point average and the 2008 Excellence in Liberal Studies Award to her credit, and Don Puterbaugh, who accumulated a 3.615 grade point average and was the 2009 recipient of the award. A Vietnam veteran and a retired City of Dayton detective, Puterbaugh returned to college nearing the age of 60. A regular in study groups at Post 95, the casual eatery located in the Benham-Pence Student Center, Puterbaugh has even endured physical hardships during his collegiate career, including a broken arm suffered while demonstrating techniques to members of Wittenberg's Karate Club.
"These are just a few examples of our outstanding adult students," Moore said. "I know they will continue on their journey making contributions to the well-being of their families and communities."
This year's graduating class will accept degrees in at least nine different majors, including liberal studies, theatre and dance, management, psychology, sociology, education, political science, English and German. The students majoring in liberal studies have concentrations, including organizational leadership and health care leadership.
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Robert Gantt
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