RIO GRANDE — Clell Elliott will graduate with 398 others during the University of Rio Grande’s 2012 Commencement on May 5, 2012. For many, graduation is a four-year journey. For Elliott, age 89, the journey lasted nearly nine decades.
“I would encourage everyone I can to go to school. Don’t give up, regardless of the circumstances,” Elliott said, who first attended the University of Rio Grande in 1958.
Elliott is the one of the first graduates of the Adult Studies Program at the University of Rio Grande. The program, which began in January 2012, is specifically designed for adults 24 and older who had to leave college, allowing these individuals to return to school in order to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management.
“I never like to see people start something and not be able to finish it regarding their education,” said Zaki Sharif, Ph.D., Dean of College of Professional and Applied Studies. “You need to keep your eye on the goal and see it through to graduation and Clell reminds us that it is never too late.”
The Adult Studies Program blends live and online classes, allowing enrollees like Clell to take self-paced courses through the Evans School of Business. After church colleagues encouraged Elliott to pursue his passion, he returned to college at the age of 89, more than 50 years after first arriving on the Rio campus.
“The roads have changed there, and there’s more buildings since I was there,” Elliott recalled. “But it was wonderful. I was looking forward to this.”
Sharif said the Adult Studies Program relies on past work experience, of which Elliott had seven decades. The program also offers a special adult student tuition rate of $400 per credit hour to encourage any working professional to give college another shot.
“Cost is one barrier for adults returning. We set this up for that reason,” Sharif said. “Seventy-five percent of Ohio residents don’t have a college degree. It’s a huge population when you think about it.”
That population is about to get one person smaller. On May 5, 2012, Elliott will walk in the university’s graduation ceremony. At nearly 90 years old, he will be the first graduate of the Adult Studies Program at the University of Rio Grande.
Elliott’s first attempt at an education ended six weeks into the second semester of his sophomore year in high school.
“I think it was 1938 when my father encouraged me to quit school and spend my time on the family farm,” he remembered.
Four years later, Elliott joined the Navy, which took him overseas to work in the post office.
After his service, Elliott went back to school for the first time, learning how to type at night while working in the day out on Long Island, New York.
In 1958, Elliot returned to Ohio, where he worked at a plant in Piketon. That’s where a friend encouraged him to go to college for the first time.
“Mrs. Thomas taught English Literature at the University of Rio Grande,” Elliott said. “She always told students anyone who works hard in this class will not fail. This encouraged me to go to school.”
Elliott attended Rio Grande for two years before the challenges of life got back in the way. Elliott lost his job and had to leave school. He tried to take classes at Ashland Community College and Ohio University’s Ironton campus. But being a husband, father, newly ordained minister and professional welder made a college degree out of reach. Even after retiring in 1984, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and preaching kept Elliott too busy to finish what he started. Nearly 30 years later, the Adult Studies Program helped him complete the journey.
“This has been a lifelong ambition to graduate from college,” Elliott said. “It’s going to be quite an experience to walk across in cap and gown…it’s going to be very exciting.”
“This was the right time for him,” Sharif added. “It’s inspiring.”
Sharif expects enrollment in the Adult Studies program to double in enrollment next year. Interested participants can email email@example.com or call (740) 992-1880 with questions. They could also ask Elliott for his recommendation.
“I would tell people if they want to get an education, Rio Grande is the place to go. They have been so cooperative and kind throughout my experience with them.”