“What’s your degree in, Daddy?”
In 1975, King came to Ottawa University from his home outside Miami, Oklahoma. He was among the first members of the Ottawa Tribe to attend OU. But education was not a priority in his life—marriage and full-time employment simply took precedent over earning his bachelor’s degree. He returned to his hometown to be a police officer like his grandfather and uncle.
Years went by. King retired early from police work. The Kings ran two home building companies and King’s wife, Angie, pursued higher education.
She completed her undergraduate degree and at her graduation, their daughter asked the fateful question that brought King back to OU. “I enrolled in our local community college,” says King, “and started taking classes; then it hit me: ‘Why not finish where I started so many years ago?’”
While attending OU, King worked two jobs—one for the city of Edmond, Oklahoma, and a second for Home Depot. Angie was hard at work on the pre-requisites required for her physician’s assistant education, as well as serving as payroll and benefits manager for the local ambulance company.
The couple still had four of their seven children at home during this period, as well. However, King’s greatest challenge was not the online environment or juggling his work and home responsibilities.
Over Labor Day weekend 2011, while clearing trees from his family’s property, King fell over 30 feet, breaking his back, his right heel and cracking a few ribs. Despite these extensive injuries, King only missed one class assignment. He completed his bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in communication in May 2012.
“I loved the online experience,” says King. “I loved the connections that were formed. Many of my online classmates became friends and we stay in contact with each other today.” In fact, King was chosen to work with a test group using a social network aspect of the Blackboard technology used by OU’s online students. This new technology will be added to the online experience in the next year.
King does not regret his time at OU in the 1970s. Though he did not complete his degree then, his time there was valuable in other ways. “My favorite teacher was Barbara Richards,” says King. “She was a Blackfoot Native American, and she and I connected on so many different levels. She is the one responsible for me getting back in touch with my Native American culture.”
What now? King isn’t in the mood to retire or end his education journey anytime soon. He’s currently working on his master’s degree through OU’s online program and hopes to be a teacher some day. After all, as King has always shared with his children, “education is the key to success, and a degree is one way to obtain your dreams.”
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