Lloyd and Arnecia Gallop were high school sweethearts. They traveled the world while serving the U.S. Army – one as an active duty soldier and the other as a U.S. Army civilian employee. Recently, both graduated from Excelsior College with a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts degree.
Lloyd and Arnecia were born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. After completing high school with honors, Lloyd joined the U.S. Army as an Intelligence Analyst. While serving, he was stationed at military installations within the United States and at posts around the world, including Yongsan Army Base and Camp Humphreys (South Korea), Kitzingen Army Airfield (Germany), and Camp Zama (Japan). He also deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After completing high school, Arnecia was able to finish one semester of college before joining Lloyd in the U.S. Army as a civilian employee.
After completing 22 years as an active duty soldier, Lloyd retired from the U.S. Army and moved with his wife to Atlanta, Georgia.
Both Lloyd and his wife Arnecia felt earning degrees from Excelsior worked for their lifestyle; they could take classes online regardless of where they were stationed.
Together they share their story with Excelsior Life.
Excelsior Life: How did you hear about Excelsior College?
Lloyd: I sat down with a visiting Excelsior College counselor at Fort Stewart, Georgia after numerous attempts to obtain a college education. I was not able to complete my degree prior to this time because of rotating duty stations and different college requirements. I then learned how Excelsior College could help me.
Excelsior Life: Where do you work today?
Lloyd: I am an Intelligence Specialist, working for U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Washington, DC. My duties include lots of highly classified things, so I can’t say too much about it.
Arnecia: I work in Washington, DC as an immigration officer assistant for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). My work helps immigrants to become legal residents.
Excelsior Life: How will or did your degree impact your career?
Lloyd: I obtained my degree prior to retiring from active duty from the U.S. Army. My degree from Excelsior College helped me to advance ahead of my peers while serving in the military, and set the stage for me to gain a wonderful and exciting job once I retired from the military.
Arnecia: Both of my degrees from Excelsior College helped to advance my career and opened the door of many opportunities.
Excelsior Life: How long did it take you to earn your degree?
Lloyd: When I enrolled into Excelsior College, it took me about 18 months to finish my bachelor’s degree. During the last few months of degree completion, while stationed in Japan, I commuted to several locations in Tokyo to take college classes that could be transferred back to Excelsior and also completed some of them online.
For several months, after getting off of work, I would travel to different military bases around Tokyo to attend classes, and would not get home until 1 am. I would have to be at morning formation for physical training at 5:45 am. In the end, it was worth it.
Arnecia: When I finally started working on my bachelor’s degree, it took me about 20 months to finish. While living in Japan, I also commuted to other military bases around Tokyo and completed online classes. When we moved back to the United States, I continued taking classes so that I could finish my bachelor’s degree. Even though it was difficult, I’m glad that we motivated each other to finish our degrees. I completed both of my degrees with Excelsior.
Excelsior Life: What did you like best about distance learning?
Lloyd: For both of us, we had the opportunity to gain an education, and feel part of the classroom regardless of where we were stationed or living. It was flexible.
Excelsior Life: What motivated you to continue on for a second degree from Excelsior?
Arnecia: When I graduated from high school, I promised my parents that I would complete my college degree. I started working on it immediately after high school, but as a military spouse, an Army civilian employee, and a new mother, it was impossible for me to finish with the college that I attended after high school because of my travels around the world. My husband and I kind of motivated each other. I completed my associate degree in 2003 and my bachelor’s degree in 2014.
Excelsior Life: As high school sweethearts, can you describe the feeling of both graduating together?
Lloyd: It was fantastic, and brought back so many memories. Arnecia and I dated in high school, graduated in 1983, and got married in 1985. We have been married for almost 29 years, and dated for 2 years; 31 years of love and education. Both of us wanted to complete our bachelor’s degrees, but life and its responsibilities got in the way.
When we decided to finish our degrees, I finished first. Arnecia and I marched across the stage together when we finished high school and I promised her that I would wait until she finished so that we could once again march together. Thank you Excelsior College, for allowing your graduates to participate in commencement ceremonies regardless of when they finished. This allowed us to graduate together. What an awesome benefit!
Arnecia: I loved every minute of it. Graduating together also allowed us to show our daughters that completing a college degree was equally important to both of their parents. Our oldest daughter graduated from college with her bachelor’s degree in 2004, and our youngest daughter will graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree next year (May 2015). Even though we both had things going on in our lives, to include raising our beautiful daughters, I made a promise to my father that I would finish college with a bachelor’s degree. My father passed away and is no longer with us, but I know he was watching me on my big day.
Excelsior Life: What was it like balancing school, work, and family?
Lloyd: It was difficult, but manageable because of my wonderful wife. She is my rock!
Arnecia: As a working mother, it was difficult. Lots of late night studying, but in the end it was worth every minute.
Excelsior Life: What advice would you give to others pursing a college education online?
Lloyd: It’s easier than you think, and Excelsior College does a good job making every student feel as if they are physically sitting in a classroom while taking classes online.
Arnecia: It’s manageable, and can fit into your everyday lifestyle. Excelsior College provides a wonderful platform; it’s up to you to take advantage of it.
Excelsior Life: Have either of you received any awards or career honors?
Lloyd: I have lots of military honors and awards. My Excelsior College bachelor’s degree paved the way for me to enter the U.S. Army’s Staff Management College to complete the Federal Civilian Employee Intermediate Staff Leaders Course.
Arnecia: As a federal government employee, I have received numerous civilian employee awards and honors.
Excelsior Life: Outside of work, do you volunteer or participate in any community events? Arnecia: Prior to Lloyd’s military retirement, I worked as a Red Cross volunteer on numerous military installations where we were stationed. I serve as a volunteer at my church’s annual back–to-school program. I also serve as a mentor for high school cheerleader programs.
Excelsior Life: So what is next for this couple since graduating? They both show how the desire to learn is a part of their life and that it doesn’t stop. Lloyd is currently considering pursuing a master’s degree with Excelsior. He is also interested in attending a culinary school to become a pastry chef. Arnecia is planning to complete a master’s degree with Excelsior.