John Sperling was a modern-day Horatio Alger story: He was born in a log cabin and was functionally illiterate as a youth.
He educated himself and founded a movement. Thanks to Dr. Sperling’s work, more than a million working-class Americans have been able to back to school and earn a college degree.
I was one of that million-plus who had an opportunity to earn a degree through the University of Phoenix, when 10 years ago today, I earned my bachelor’s degree.
I was fortunate enough to be the commencement speaker in front of 7,000 people and thousands more watching virtually.
I didn’t take the traditional route to higher education. Life happened and I became part of the growing segment of returning learners.
I didn’t stop with my bachelor’s degree. Two years later, I completed my educational journey by earning my Master’s of Public Administration.
But in so many ways, my life truly began anew on this day a decade ago.
I look back at where I was and I think of a percentage: 207%
That percentage represents how much my income has grown over a career change and SIX different jobs as I climbed the ladder and broke glass ceilings.
Later in 2012, I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Sperling. Then-Apollo Group CEO Chaz Edelstein introduced us, saying: “John, this is Eugene. He recently earned his bachelor’s degree and we brought him here to work for us. Eugene is the embodiment of your dream.”
I’m grateful to the late Dr. Sperling, who founded University of Phoenix for adult learners like me.
I’m grateful for everyone who believed in me, supported, encouraged and assisted me in getting to a much better place in my career.
I have aspired to continue the spirit of “implacable opportunism, joy in conflict and…thrill from taking risks” that John Sperling lived by.
And I’m not done. Because limits, like fears, are just an illusion.