Custodian earns Bachelor’s degree at Loras College

Ken Oglesby and Steve Brown start work at 5 a.m. weekdays as custodians in Keane Hall at Loras College. They’ve been hard at it for a couple of hours by the time I arrive before nearly everyone else in the building. We greet each other almost every morning as I stop by my office for a few minutes before heading to the gym. They are two of the friendliest guys on campus — or anywhere else, for that matter.

It shames me to admit that, until a few days ago, I didn’t know their last names. And Friday, I didn’t recognize Ken when I saw him in a suit and tie and without his full beard and long hair. He was one of the more than 200 members of the Class of 2020 who participated Friday afternoon in the commencement ceremony at the Rock Bowl on the Loras campus. Loras graduation was rescheduled from the spring to the fall and held outside to accommodate social distancing and other safety measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ken, 50, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business. He has worked at Loras for nine years. One of the perks of working there is being able to take classes without paying tuition. For the past several years, while going to work at 5 a.m. and raising a family, Ken has taken classes part-time. It took awhile to get the 40-some credits needed for a business major plus the core classes that everyone takes at Loras.

As I’ve already admitted, I don’t know a lot about Ken. I don’t know what he wants to do with his degree. Whatever he wants to do, he will work hard if he is given a chance. If I were in a position to hire new college graduates, I’d give him that chance.

My wife bragged about my also graduating Friday with an MBA. She posted about it a couple of times on Facebook. As of this morning, one of the posts has been liked more than 165 times and commented on more than 70 times. I’m proud of my accomplishment. I love that Janet is proud of me. And I really appreciate the many kind words from our family and friends.

But Ken’s accomplishment is perhaps more impressive. Not everyone is brave enough to go to college as a 40-something in an effort to better themselves. Ken has been out of high school for 32 years, according to his LinkedIn page. In that time, he has worked at eight blue-collar jobs. And he still buckled down and made time to get a college degree. I applaud him for it.

Graduation on Friday was just the first part of a glorious weekend.

Saturday, Janet and I joined half of the population — or so it seemed — in our corner of Iowa to check out the fall colors at Pikes Peak State Park, the nearby town of McGregor and along the Mississippi River from there to Dubuque. It’s beautiful this time of year. Check it out of you can.

2 thoughts on “Custodian earns Bachelor’s degree at Loras College

  • That’s fantastic. I feel like men are less apt to change direction midway through life than women but you’re proving me wrong. I went back to school at age 49 and eventually earned an MA in French Language and Literature. But I agree that Ken’s accomplishment seems more impressive. I’d already been to college and felt comfortable with the process. Not to mention, if I’d had to start my days at 5:00 am, I wouldn’t have made it. Cheers to you both!

    • Thank you. I’ve been thinking more about this. I’m proud of my new degree, but Ken’s accomplishment is bigger for a couple of reasons. I had already graduated from college once so I had at least an idea of what I was getting into when I started. More importantly, I spend a lot of my time at work at a desk in front of a computer. And I have a job in which there are sometimes lulls that created an opportunity to work on a homework assignment or to study. Ken doesn’t have that opportunity in his job.

      I visited with him for a bit yesterday. His wife is a stay-at-home mom. They have two kids. The oldest is 15, I think, and the youngest is 8. Ken has been taking two classes per semester for 8 years. That’s real dedication. He commented on how much he is looking forward to having more time to do stuff with his family. They have all made sacrifices for his degree.

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