In the fall of 1993, Gretchen Wagner came to Wittenberg from Berkshire High School in Burton, Ohio.
She learned to play lacrosse her freshman year and continued as a goalie and worked as an RA in Tower Hall her sophomore year. A serious injury at the end of that year sidelined both her lacrosse career and her education.
Wagner left Wittenberg, but she remained in Springfield and took a full-time job where she met her husband, Jim McIntosh, whose education had also met with an unexpected interruption.
The couple eventually welcomed a daughter followed by a son, now 10 and 6, respectively. Although life was moving along, neither had forgotten their delayed educations.
In time, Jim began working toward his associate's degree at Clark State Community College, where he earned Phi Beta Kappa honors, which entitled him to a 50 percent scholarship toward coursework in Wittenberg's School of Community Education (SCE). Gretchen quickly offered him a sound piece of advice.
"If you've got a chance to go to Witt, you really need to go," she said.
It wasn't long before Jim returned the favor. He encouraged Gretchen to speak with Dean of the SCE Elma Lee Moore in hopes of resuming her pursuit of a Wittenberg diploma as well.
"Elma Lee was just wonderful," Gretchen said. "I came in on a Thursday – she said, ‘This is what you're going to do,' and I started class the following Tuesday.
"I have been surprised by how great the traditional students have been," she added. "I was apprehensive about going to classes with them. I'm so much older than they are. And the professors are wonderful. The guidance and support they give you is amazing. They are willing to address my concerns, and I was surprised to learn they give just as much attention to adult students as they do to traditional students. They are willing to talk to me one-to-one. It's been just a wonderful experience."
Gretchen's choice of communication as a field of study has allowed her to aim for a career in a field she's passionate about.
"It's everywhere. Every action or experience involves communication. It makes you a better parent. You pay more attention to the other person – it's a valuable business skill to be able to relate to other people," she explained.
A major accomplishment for Gretchen was having her paper accepted by the Ohio Communication Association.
"I just presented my paper in October (at the association's 2009 conference), and the paper will serve as a sample piece for graduate school," said Gretchen, who is applying to The Ohio State University for graduate courses in the Arts Policy and Administration Program to train to run an art museum or a non-profit organization.
"I love art, especially visual art," she said. "I actually took an art history class, and I was going to do a minor in it but was advised that I needed a stronger background in business."
She is also preparing for her next big challenge, a 10-hour weekly marketing internship with Let's Go Learn, a Web site-based supplemental instructional curriculum for reading and mathematics.
"I will be evaluating the market, developing marketing tools and managing the [program's] blog," she said.
On the home front, she has an active household with children's dance classes and team sports – she coached a soccer team and is active with the school's booster club.
"I don't know what I'm going to do if things ever slow down," she said. "Actually, the busy pace helps you to keep on top of things.
"Lack of sleep has been the hardest part, definitely," Gretchen added. "If one of the kids is sick, and I have a paper due – it's just hard. Luckily I don't have to work full time. My husband comes from a really large family – realistically, without them this would never happen. We have a really large support system.
"I'm just really grateful that I was given the chance to finish. I think the value of a Wittenberg education is unmatched. Not just the courses, but what you learn to do, and the community that supports you in doing it."
On Saturday, May 17, 2010, Jim and Gretchen McIntosh will share an experience few husbands and wives ever enjoy as they complete unusually lengthy journeys to undergraduate degrees – together.
- Written by Phyllis Eberts
- Photo by Erin Pence