Amidst the hugs and happiness of hundreds of graduates from The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation this May, there may not have been anyone happier, more emotional than Michael Mack.
That's because 59-year-old Mack, a skilled trades pipefitter/millwright at Jeep in Toledo, first started taking college classes (political science) in 1978, but he never obtained a degree until receiving his associates degree in business this May.
And although his family knew he was taking classes at UT, they did not know he would be receiving his degree this May until about one week before graduation.
"I didn't let anybody know I was getting my degree; I wanted people to be shocked," Mack said.
"I always felt that something was not finished," he explained. "I knew it would be a relatively difficult task, but that it had to be undertaken if I wanted to succeed. I kept this to myself and did not share it with anyone in my family except my stepdaughter - - who developed into an inspiration when it became difficult - - until just before graduation. The difficulty of this task make’s the taste of completion even sweeter and more appreciative."
"This degree brings closure," Mack said. "It’s like the closing of one part of my life and the opening of another. I had quite a few individuals ask me, 'Why are you going back to school now?' and expressing their apprehension towards it. The first reason is that my own father always told me an education is something to never be turned down, that once you have it no one can take it away. Secondly, I wanted to send a message to my own children and grandchildren about the importance of an education, that it is never too late to achieve it, that you never know it all."
The challenges were great. Mack often worked at Jeep seven days a week, 12 hours a day. "I worked, ate, did the dishes and then did my homework."
He intends to continue his business college goals by obtaining his bachelor's degree, possibly majoring in management.
Mack is already putting his business acumen into action, having started a small golf repair business.
"Mack Daddy Golf is up and running, but at a regulated capacity at the moment due to my present work and school schedule," Mack said. "I would like to start a business in South Carolina where I can show different companies how to be more efficient in their processes and daily operations. I have had a few conversations with some individuals who have expressed interest in the different ideas I shared with them. I knew to succeed I needed to know and understand how to run a business, otherwise all I had was a dream. I had to equip myself for this new venture in life. About the same time Chrysler and The University of Toledo entered into an agreement offering individuals the opportunity to get back into school and further their education."
Mack also admits that working on his degree enabled him to learn more than his course material.
"One eye opening moment was when I came to the realization through my fellow classmates, most of whom are quite a bit younger than myself, that over the last few years I have spent my efforts talking at the younger generation and not with them. They do have some great and useful ideas if we just open up and absorb them."