Tag Archive: Isiah Thomas


Sometimes we are too quick to fast-forward, skip, turn-down or mute the sound when inevitable ads intrude into our lives.

We have all seen way-too-many-times-to-count the AFLAC Duck, Flo for Progressive, the Sprint dude and/or the AT&T dudette. We could almost scream.

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And then every blue moon there is that one special ad, which makes us sit up, think deeply and maybe even brings a tear to the eye. And that very same ad may change the way we think about a given firm or a marketed product.

The University of Phoenix has major PR problems. The online college only graduates 17.5 percent of its enrollees. It charges an eye-opening $9,812 in tuition. Way too many former students have zero degrees, but they are saddled in thousands of dollars of debt (estimated $493 million total). Some CEOs believe that for-profit colleges are simply selling degrees, and their diplomas are not worth the fancy paper in which they are printed.

These are tough charges and allegations. And there lies the origin of perceived and real public relations issues for the University of Phoenix.

University of Phoenix stadium, site of this years Super Bowl.

University of Phoenix Stadium.

The University of Phoenix has the resources to have its name adorned on the stadium of the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona. Which brings us to wide receiver Larry Darnell Fitzgerald, Jr., #11 of the Cardinals.

There is also no doubt that Fitzgerald will be enshrined in Canton. In his 12 years with the Arizona Cardinals, he has caught more than 1,000 passes for more than 13,000 yards and 101 touchdowns. The team came one eyelash from winning Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.

Bachelor of Science in Communication, 2016

And yet there is more to the Larry Fitzgerald story, much more. It concerns a promise to his mom. His mother, Carol, passed away from breast cancer in 2003. The two were not speaking to each other, which he now regrets.

Nonetheless, he remembered his promise. He opted for the NFL draft after only two seasons with the Pittsburgh Panthers. Despite all the fame and the reported $20 million contract, something was missing in his life, a college degree.

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Maybe knowing it or not, he was following in the footsteps of some very famous “non-traditional” students: Joe Namath (Alabama), Isiah Thomas (Indiana) and Shaquille O’Neal (LSU) … and just this year, Larry Fitzgerald.

Namath finished his degree 42 years after leaving Tuscaloosa. Thomas fulfilled his commitment made in a legal contract drawn up by his mother, Mary, attaining his college degree from Indiana University. It was nearly a quarter-of-a-century between Shaquille departing LSU and receiving his degree.

What fascinates Almost DailyBrett is the drive that still exists for a few celebrity athletes, who have reached the top of their game and attained the enviable position of being financially set for life, who realize something is missing in their life – the satisfaction of a college degree.

Your author teaches at Central Washington University, which will never be confused with Harvard and Stanford. Having said that, it is exciting to realize how many of our students will be the first in their family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and how many are “non-traditional” – beyond, sometimes way beyond, the traditional 18-24-year age range for most college students.fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald is a non-traditional student. Maybe the fact that University of Phoenix is primarily online made going back to college a little bit easier from an awkwardness standpoint. Something tells Almost DailyBrett that Fitzgerald is very comfortable in his own skin. Still he needed to fulfill his promise to his deceased mom.

Fitzgerald dials his mom’s landline and hears her voicemail greeting. He wants to appreciate her voice yet again. He then tells his mom he kept his promise, he graduated (the University of Phoenix diploma hangs on the wall). He loves her.

The fact that he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication brings a smile to the face of the author of Almost DailyBrett. The simple-and-effective “We Rise” tagline works from a marketing and branding standpoint.

There is no doubt that Larry Fitzgerald rose above the inclination to eternally procrastinate, to settle into a comfortable life, and to not fulfill his promise.

Thank you University of Phoenix and Larry Fitzgerald for telling this wonderful story. Hopefully, more than 29 percent of our population will be inspired to attain their bachelor’s degrees or even more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fWLmf1O8oQ

http://www.larryfitzgerald.com/

http://www.phoenix.edu/

http://www.phoenix.edu/partners/larry-fitzgerald.html?intcid=mktg-home-page:hero:banner:top

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/05/11/sports/thomas-keeps-promise-to-mom.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/12/15/football-great-joe-namath-earns-college-degree-42-years-later.html

http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/story?id=100078&page=1

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/online-college-not-good-enough-for-pr/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2015/07/09/these-20-schools-are-responsible-for-a-fifth-of-all-graduate-school-debt/?tid=sm_fb 

 

He dropped out of school not once, but twice.

He worked in a lumber mill until there was no more lumber mill.

He was employed by an aluminum fabricator until his plant went overseas.

He jumped out of a perfectly good airplane 30 times in one given day, set an Oregon record, and lived to talk about it.

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He drove 140 miles round-trip virtually every day of the week from Roseburg to Eugene in all kinds of crummy weather to pursue his goal.

He earned his high school degree at 25, and then his associate’s degree and just this past week his Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism with an emphasis on Public Relations.

Meet Ronn Crow, 45, former drop out, then “non-trad” student and now graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC).

“I never thought I would get a bachelor’s degree,” Ronn said. “This is a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Patty Jenness, 48, never did and never will jump out of an airplane, let alone doing it 30 times before the sun goes down.

She did give birth to four daughters; adopted two more, eventually adding three sons-in-law and three grandchildren (and counting) to her household.

For most people, raising six daughters (whatever happened to her husband, Andy’s, Y-chromosome supply?) would be a job well done.

After accomplishing this goal, she sat down with Andy (one of my M.A. student colleagues) and talked about next steps. Patty made the decision to go back to school.

patty

Applying and signing up for classes was a snap. She loves information and follows current events, so SOJC was a natural for her. As it turned out, there was the mental struggle and doubts that would turn out to be the biggest hurdles.

“Did my brain still work right?” Patty recalls asking herself. “And what is this old lady doing in the classroom?”

Patty articulated the doubts of many non-traditional students or “non-trads.” How would they be accepted by the perky millennial crowd in their late-teens and early-20s, the ones who can barely remember the 20th Century?

As it turns out, she didn’t need to worry. Patty graduated this past week from SOJC with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations

Stephanie Martin turned 46 this week. She has been pursuing her bachelor’s degree for six years, first as a community college student and now at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. She can envision, walking up on the platform in her cap and gown to receive her diploma.

“I can see myself balling on stage, just like a three year-old girl who stubbed her toe,” Stephanie said. “It has been a long-slow road to hell. It has been hard, real hard.”

stephaniemartin

Stephanie was divorced with her young son, Zachary, and was stuck in a dead-end position. She was approaching 40 and there just had to be more in life.

She reflected how she hated her Indiana high school, and she recollected her thoughts about her short stints at Ball State and Indiana University as “a waste of time and a waste of money.”

As Zachary turned five, Stephanie started applying for student loans and grants. She took her first steps at Lane Community College and then transferred to the University of Oregon. The latter was the hard part.

She believes that community colleges are naturally more adept at addressing the needs of “non-trad” students than major universities that are more inclined to focus on the needs of Millennials and foreign students.

“I asked myself, ‘What am I doing’?” said Stephanie. “I came back each night in tears. Nobody seemed to care about the older students.”

And now, she can see the finish line. She can envision herself making presentations and demonstrations for corporations. This soon will be possible because of her upcoming degree.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was a non-trad student as well, going back to pursue his M.A. degree at 54 years-young. The average grad student is 29. Think of it this way, it is not uncommon for professionals to take a sabbatical from work – particularly in this economy – to attain an advanced degree.

The same cannot be said for those who have the courage to return or enter college in middle-age to sit in classrooms with late teens and early 20s students for the purpose of attaining an undergraduate degree. Three celebrated examples are Shaquille O’Neal (LSU), Joe Namath (Alabama) and Isiah Thomas (Indiana).

There are a wide variety of reasons that propel these mature students to get back on the academic track.

For Ronn Crow, federal Trade Adjustment Assistance as a result of the Alcan Cable offshoring provided the needed capital and another opportunity.

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For Patty Jenness, her husband, Andy, was pursuing his master’s degree and the nest was emptying (her daughters range from 20-27 years of age).

For Stephanie Martin, it was a realization that she was going nowhere fast in her dead-end job. She just has too much talent, not to do better.

It should be noted that I had the honor of teaching upper-division public relations to Ronn (two classes), Patty (two classes) and Stephanie (one class). Each of them was always there, attentive and ready to learn. In fact, Stephanie insisted on going first when it came to making a presentation. She does not suffer from Glossophobia.

The three of them are all different, but in many ways they are all the same.

They are non-trads.

They are courageous.

They are overachievers.

Almost DailyBrett wishes them the absolute best in their exciting careers and lives.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_Adjustment_Assistance

http://www.jcomm.uoregon.edu/

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