Finish What You Started

There is much to be said for finishing what you started. When it comes to higher education, not all students finish in one continuous period of time. Some drop out because of finances or difficulties making the grade. Some get married and start a family, or perhaps start a job. Sadly, too many of these students neve return.

But some find their way back to the ivory towers of academe to earn a degree they wanted long ago, having realized they would be able to make a greater impact on society once they had their diploma.

That’s the story of J. Pat Richmond, who returned to WT 20 years ago at the age of 53. Richmond had taken a job with a major beverage distributor, married, and did all the things that young people do. It’s just that he found himself only about halfway to the finish line, something that became painfully apparent early this century.

“One of the owners of the company asked me, ‘What’s your degree in’?” “Well, I don’t have one.” ‘Why? I’ll pay for it,” his boss said. “That’s what started it,” Richmond recalled.

“I didn’t start back at that time, but I made sure all my employees had the opportunity to do it. And I’d always look up at my wall, and I didn’t have a degree on it, and it would make me mad,” he went on. “I started looking at my employees. I had several Master’s degrees, many Bachelor’s degrees, some still in school. I expected a lot more out of my employees than I expected out of myself. So I went home and told my wife, Vicky, I was going back to school.”

It was no walk in the park for Richmond, though. His wife gently reminded him that he was 53, and that much had changed since he had left school.  And then there were the rigors of juggling a demanding job with equally demanding courses. He wound up pacing himself, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 2007.

Richmond retired in 2018, perfectly content that he returned to WT. Today, he serves on the College of Business Advisory Board, and is seen frequently walking the halls of the place that became his academic home…for a second time. “It’s never too late to finish what he started,” he concluded.