Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

January 2012

After Starting Nearly 40 Years Ago, UCO Student Receives College Degree


University of Central Oklahoma student Mike Ryan
University of Central Oklahoma graduate Mike Ryan, 57, stands in the Barnett Bell Plaza on campus, which he passed through Dec. 17 during the procession to graduation as one of 1,172 students graduating from Central. Ryan began college in 1972, and finished his degree at Central 39 years later.

There were a lot of proud moms in the University of Central Oklahoma’s Hamilton Field House during the university’s fall commencement ceremonies Dec. 17, 2011. But perhaps none so proud as 80-year-old Louise Ryan as she watched her 57-year-old son Mike Ryan finish what he started 39 years ago.

“My mom was there for me when I began college, and I’m so proud that she saw this journey come to completion,” he said.

Ryan, a resident of Edmond, received a bachelor’s degree in general studies, marking the accomplishment of a goal he started back in 1972.

After graduating high school, he began his college career at The College at Brockport, a campus of the State University of New York. He earned more than 100 hours during his five years at Brockport, and then life got in the way of his education.

“I was young and wasn’t focused on my education,” said Ryan.

Work took him from New York to the southern states and then eventually to Oklahoma where he now works as a cabinetmaker for Edmond Public Schools.

In the back of his mind, Ryan has always carried the dream of earning his bachelor’s degree.

“I just didn’t think class was something I could fit into my schedule, so I pushed it aside.”

But with a little encouragement from friends and family, he decided to visit Central and meet with an advisor.

“Being a packrat came to my advantage. I saved my course catalog from my freshman year at Brockport, and all of my credits transferred,” Ryan said.

Ryan was admitted in spring 2010. He found the flexibility he needed at Central by taking night classes, which allowed him to work and attend school at the same time.

“I was more motivated the second time I tried higher education, because I realized it had intrinsic value – that I was doing it for myself this time,” Ryan said.

He has stories to tell about most classes he took at Central, like being the oldest person in his English composition class, including the professor.

“I loved being around younger people and getting a different point of view on life,” said Ryan.

“I never felt out place, or like I didn’t belong. There was a great sense of community.”

Ryan’s general studies major gave him the freedom to take courses he was interested in, along with core curriculum like English, American history and political science. He said one of his favorite courses was personal computer productivity.

“We learned how use Microsoft Office as a productivity enhancer. I enjoyed learning about something I could immediately put into practice.”

A father of six and grandfather of eight, his family has been his biggest influence. Ryan had a crowd of supporters cheering him on as he and 1,171 other students received degrees as a part of Central’s largest fall graduating class.

Among his fans were Ryan’s wife, four of their children, his brother and various family and friends. But, of course, Ryan’s guest of honor was his mother, Louise, who had been eagerly waiting for the moment when her son would receive his degree.

Now, Ryan will has more time to do the things he loves – with a new sense of accomplishment and a bachelor’s degree under his belt.

“I’m looking forward to having more time to golf, watch Yankee baseball and spend time with my family,” said Ryan.

For more information about Central and degree completion opportunities offered by the university, visit www.uco.edu or contact the Office of Enrollment Management at (405) 974-3741.

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