Clark Hamilton overcomes hardships to earn college degree 50 years after start

| May 21, 2014

Clark Hamilton

Clark Hamilton

FORT WAYNE—Clark Hamilton is living proof that there’s truth in time-honored ideas—ideas like “it’s never too late to accomplish a goal” and “perseverance pays off.”

Last week, Hamilton graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) with a bachelor’s degree in general studies after waiting 50 years to achieve that goal. At age 67, Hamilton was the oldest graduate to take the walk this year. And, after putting off his educational dreams for half a century, he said he just getting started. He has  applied to the Liberal Studies Master’s Program at IPFW to earn a Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) degree.

“Clark came to us as a returning adult student after being out of school for over 40 years,” explained IPFW administrators in a statement. “The last university he attended was Shepherd University, in Shepherdstown, W. Va.,  in 1970. Clark’s mother is elderly, and it is his dream to finish a bachelor’s degree while his mother is still living. Clark has succeeded. This May, he will receive his Bachelor of General Studies.

“Not only has he overcome severe visual issues and other health concerns through self-perseverance and assistance from Services for Students with Disabilities; he has also overcome the changes and challenges in technology. Clark is a fighter. When something is difficult, he does what he must do to be successful,” continued the statement.

IPFW staff described Hamilton as someone who reaches out to people on campus and utilizes all the campus referrals he is given. Because of this, they said he registered the following achievements:

• Summer 2013—Semester GPA – 3.25,Cumulative GPA – 3.25

• Fall 2013—Semester GPA – 3.67,Cumulative GPA – 3.43, with Semester Honors

He also achieved his Spring 2014 goals of earning a GPA of over a 3.5, Cumulative GPA above a 3.5, making the Dean’s List with  Semester Honors and graduating in May 2014 with a degree.

Just prior to graduating in May, Hamilton told his own story as part of his application to the master’s degree program.

Here he is in his own words:

By Clark Hamilton

Special to Frost Illustrated

Courtesy of IPFW

The bachelor’s degree I will receive this May is the completion of a 50-year journey that started in 1964. I was eligible for the draft into the Vietnam War. I opted to go to school instead.

My undergraduate studies began at Shepherd University, a state normal school for teachers. When my lottery number came up,  it was high enough that my draft status changed to the point that I probably would not be called for duty. I dropped out of school with three courses remaining and 16 hours of student teaching to receive a BA in Elementary Education.

My professional career was hindered because I didn’t have my degree. On two separate occasions. my upward mobility was prohibited, not because of my lack of experience, but directly because I did not have a degree. This bothered me. However, I was not in a position to return to school because of my family responsibilities.

Completion of my educational pursuit remained with me as well as my desire to have my sons to pick up where I left off.

I was diagnosed with colon cancer and prostate cancer in 2009; I also have diabetes, glaucoma, hypertension and have been classified as being legally blind. These conditions alone could be a deterrent for giving up my desires for higher education, but what Jim Valvino said before he passed away, “don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” has been inspirational to me.

Now that I am on the eve of receiving my bachelors I want to continue my thirst for knowledge. Not only do I want to receive my master’s, I am encouraged to work toward my PhD.

My professors here at IPFW have been very supportive in my efforts and I am grateful for their assistance.

My cousin, Dr. Henry “Skip” Gates has appeared on campus as a part of our lecture series has also been inspirational to me.

…In today’s society, it is almost essential that the tools

used in communication and application is imperative in order to keep informed, specially if you have disabilities. I am working with the League of the Blind and the office of Student Disability Services to utilize equipment to help me with this endeavor. In order to be productive in the classroom, I have used larger fonts, zoom text, drag and speak, magnifiers, recorders, audio text and other devices that are available to assist with my studies.

My strengths are hard work and perseverance in completing tasks. I love to prove the naysayers wrong when they feel that I won’t succeed. This, as well as wanting to be an inspiration to my family, keeps me motivated. I have an 89-year-old mother who has encouraged me to continue my education and I would like to complete this window of opportunity before it runs out. This would be my gift to her.

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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