Hatcher Parnell, 50, will finally receive his sociology degree from the University of California, Berkeley this week, after a year of commuting from Los Angeles to Berkeley by plane twice a week.Embed from Getty Images
Mr. Parnell had left his degree unfinished in 1996 due to financial and work issues, but returned to complete it with the support of his family and colleagues. He said he was motivated by his desire to set an example for his two children and to fulfill his academic potential.
“I always felt like I had unfinished business,” he said. “I wanted to show my kids that education is important and that you can overcome any obstacle.”
Mr. Parnell’s commute involved waking up before 5 a.m., driving to the Long Beach airport, flying to Oakland, taking BART to campus, attending classes and discussion sections, and flying back home around 10 p.m. He said he used every minute of his travel time to study and do assignments.
“It was exhausting, but it was worth it,” he said. “I learned so much and met so many amazing people.”
Mr. Parnell’s professors and classmates praised his dedication and perseverance. Sociology professor Michael Burawoy said Mr. Parnell was “an inspiration to us all.”
“He brought a wealth of experience and insight to the classroom,” Mr. Burawoy said. “He was always engaged and enthusiastic, despite the challenges he faced.”
Mr. Parnell’s wife, Jennifer Parnell, said she was proud of her husband’s achievement and grateful for his sacrifice.
“He worked so hard for this,” she said. “He gave up a lot of time with us, but he did it for us. He’s our hero.”
Mr. Parnell said he plans to celebrate his graduation with his family and friends in Los Angeles. He said he hopes to use his degree to advance his career in higher education administration.
“I’m excited for the future,” he said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished something that I’ve always wanted to do.”Embed from Getty Images
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