There have been a lot of significant numbers in Eugene Cuthbert’s life. One of nine children, he grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey and served in the Army for 20 years. He took his first course at a college in 1995. Now, this married father of two boys can add another number of significance; a big one. Eugene is graduate number 150,000 from Excelsior College.
Since its founding in 1971, Excelsior College has been helping working adults like Eugene to earn college degrees at their own pace while tending to family needs and demands of the job.
Receiving his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in May 2013 was a long sought goal for this veteran who served a combined three tours of duty in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. And, like all of Excelsior’s grads, it’s a goal that was never out of sight, no matter how long it took to achieve.
Eugene’s journey began when he was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. He joined the U.S. Army and steadily advanced to retire in 2011 as a sergeant first class. While in the Army he served as a cannon crew member, a water treatment technician and a paratrooper, each time successfully completing additional college-level training in these fields. Along the way he also took several college courses. It wasn’t until he was preparing to return to civilian life, and in conversation with an education counselor at Ft. Hood, that he learned about Excelsior College.
“I didn’t know a lot about Excelsior at the time and I was surprised to learn how much of my Army training and previous college credits could transfer into a bachelor’s program,” said Cuthbert. Earning a degree was a personal goal, for him and his family, so he enrolled at Excelsior in January 2011 and began steady progress over the next two years to acquire the remaining 24 credits he needed to graduate. “It’s been important to me that my sons see how essential it is to get an education,” he added. When Eugene would have his books and papers spread out on the living room floor his 11-year old would often join him to do his own school work.
Reflecting on his time at Excelsior, he describes it as a challenging experience, noting that he had good interaction with his professors who were always prompt in answering his questions. “I’ve learned to be a better critical thinker, something that has helped me focus professionally,” he adds. He gets to put this to good work on a daily basis. For the past two years he has been working as a police officer in Harker Heights, Texas, a community of 30,000 residents located near Killeen, home of Ft. Hood.
To help him prepare for advancement in his law enforcement career, Eugene is planning on continuing with Excelsior to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in homeland security.
In the meantime, he is looking forward to attending commencement on July 12 in Albany, New York. His wife and two sons, along with his father from South Carolina, will be in attendance to help him celebrate his achievement. One of the things Eugene says he is looking forward to the most is the alumni breakfast the day after commencement so he can meet his fellow graduates and hear their stories of perseverance.