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Education

47 years of study pay off

By John Published: May 6, 2011
Mike Edgington sits before his computer in his Akron home. Edgington, 64, has finally received his bachelor's degree in computer science after taking many detours in his life over the past forty years. (Karen Schiely /Akron Beacon Journal)

By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer

Mike Edgington might be the poster child for perseverance.

After taking classes for 47 years at eight colleges and universities, the Akron resident finally will get his bachelor's degree.

He will graduate Sunday from Regis University, a private, Jesuit institution in Denver, from which he has been taking courses for more than two decades, mostly online.

Edgington, 65, won't attend the ceremony to pick up the sheepskin for the bachelor's degree in computer networking. He already has what he wants: the satisfaction of doing what he set out to do.

''It was something I had to do,'' said Edgington, who coordinates technical resources for clients at Cisco Systems' Richfield office. ''I was not going to give up.''

Edgington's trajectory toward a college degree started the traditional way.

Fresh out of St. Charles Preparatory School in Columbus, he enrolled in social work at Ohio State in 1964. His life took a sharp turn when he chose to drop out in 1966 as the Vietnam War crested.

''I read a lot of the news and felt strongly that the U.S. reaction was the correct one, and I wanted to make a commitment to it,'' he recalled.

When a Marine recruiter told him he would surely go to Vietnam, Edgington was thrilled. In Southeast Asia, he found out he like repairing helicopters.

When he was discharged, he earned an associate degree at the now-defunct Control Data Institute in Chicago. This was the first and only time the GI Bill it was very different in those days paid for his education. After that, he relied on educational benefits provided by his employers to cover his tuition.

As he moved around the country for computer jobs, he took courses on campus or online as his schedule permitted at Harper College in Palatine, Ill.; San Francisco State University; the University of Washington; the University of Colorado at Boulder; the University of Texas at Dallas; Cuyahoga Community College; and Jones International University in Centennial, Colo.

When he arrived at Regis in 1990, he transferred 45 credits from four universities he had attended. But more than 12 credits from San Francisco and Harper and an unknown number from the University of Colorado he has since lost the paperwork wouldn't fit into the Regis framework, his adviser there, Karen Burke, explained.

Perhaps predictably, his stay on the Regis campus didn't last long, either. Just two years later, he moved to Akron to join Cisco. This time, he persisted at Regis through online classes, chalking up a total of 84 more credits.

That includes his Senior Capstone project, in which he designed an inventory control system for the Akron-Canton FoodBank, said his Regis instructor, Trisha Litz. The agency didn't implement it because it had its own system, she said, but that didn't dim the value of the project in her eyes.

''He was on the ball, he got it done, it was good,'' Litz said. ''This is probably one of the hardest classes at Regis, because it's based on them and their motivation.''

To Edgington's chagrin, he also took one course twice.

The subject matter and course number had changed so much over the years that he was ''totally unaware that he was duplicating courses,'' said Burke, who has advised him since 2007. ''He was a little disappointed.''

He plodded along to his last course how to design computer processors this winter and finished the work in March.

Regis has seldom seen a student who was so determined, Burke said.

''It didn't matter what was going to be thrown into his life, this was something he was going to complete,'' she said.

Now Edgington will turn his attention to long-delayed home improvement projects: insulating his attic, landscaping and putting up new shutters. He has a backlog of books to read on the Civil War and early U.S. history, his favorite subjects.

He's grateful his long-suffering wife, Karen, accepted the hours of study that took him away from her and their two daughters during their 33-year marriage.

But she also asked a lot from him, she said. He fed what she calls her ''gardening obsession'' by digging ''literally thousands of plant holes as we moved from home to home through the years,'' she said. ''His studies and the dream of his diploma earned its rightful place in our home.''

Now everybody asks Edgington if he's going to pursue a master's degree. The answer is no.

He's had enough.

Yet he offers encouragement to other adults who are struggling to complete degrees.

''You can convince yourself you're too old to do anything,'' he said. ''If it's something you really want to do, go for it.''


Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com.

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