Be what’s possible. Eugene’s journey from finding his next meal in a garbage can to a Navy officer to a successful businessman is a tale of finding the possibility in opportunities presented. Tell your story. His story is intertwined with my story.

In my earliest memories of my dad, I have a vision of him coming home from a long day on the road for work, eating dinner as a family, a quick snooze on the couch with the newspaper on his chest, and then he was off to another commitment or back in his home office planning the next day of sales calls. The man worked nonstop. He also set high expectations for his children to do well in school, complete a household chore with 100% effort, and represent the family with honor in all public activities.

Going to college was expected. Getting the grades to get into college, also expected. We were lectured many times about how his father and mother immigrated to the country so that he and his children would have the opportunity to get a good education and do better in life than they did. His mother, with her 6th-grade equivalent education and very little formal work skills, lived off my grandfather’s Army pension and government assistance until the day she died at 92 years old.

My dad got to see three of his four children graduate from college with a Bachelor’s degree. My sister, Eastern Michigan University, my youngest older brother, Kalamazoo College, and me, Michigan State University. My oldest brother took the path that many NMC adult students take; starting and stopping his degree pursuit not once, but five times before getting his Bachelor degree from the University of Pheonix at age 50 because their course structure (7 week terms) allowed him to go to school and still support his wife and three children.

Our students each have a story, some know their path through NMC to 4-year college and others struggle to pay the sitter so they can make it to class. My dad had a dream that if you worked hard enough and weathered the swells of the storms, you could achieve great things. I used him as my inspiration to persist when I got divorced the last year of my Master’s program and one night at 2 o’clock in the morning, crying and sure I wasn’t cut out for my doctoral program during the first semester of juggling working fulltime with a family and grad school. I was inspired by Jenn Strauss at the October Conference to think about my own story. Understanding it, reflecting, and sharing helps me be a better person. Telling my dad’s story gives you a glimpse into my story and remember that there are twists, turns, and detours for all of us.

(In memory of my dad: February 28, 1931 – October 5, 2003)