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Loyd Patton '21

Veteran proves it's never too late to finish degree

Loyd Patton '21 has made a handful of decisions in his life that he considers to be great. Among them are accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior, joining the Air Force, and asking his wife of 40 years to marry him. Also on the list: attending Whitworth University.

A retired Master Sergeant and former Air Force Junior ROTC teacher at Spokane's Rogers High School, Patton will achieve his dream of earning a bachelor's degree in December. He names several motivations, including "to finish something I started a long, long time ago" and "to send a message to my former students (as well as my own kids) that it's never too late to go back and get your college degree."

Patton first attempted to earn a college degree in 1974, when he enrolled in a university in Louisiana on a tuba scholarship. "I was an OK tuba player, but a much better tuba player than a student and ended up getting an academic suspension," he says.

He joined the Air Force as a Morse intercept operator and spent 25 years on active duty, retiring as the Chief of Command Control Inspections for the Air Education and Training Command Inspector General Team. Between constantly moving for the military and then being busy with teaching and raising teenagers, a bachelor's degree was always out of reach. It wasn't for lack of trying, though. In all, Patton attended 12 community colleges and universities between his first and final attempts and earned two associate degrees.

After Patton stopped teaching because of health reasons, the perfect opportunity to enroll in the Whitworth School of Continuing Studies and finish his degree arrived. "Medical issues didn't stop the gray matter between the ears from working," he says. "Being a student has given me an opportunity to continue to exercise that."

A humanities major, Patton has enjoyed his classes and professors immensely. "Not only are they great educators but just plain 'good folks,'" he says. "They've all had a wonderful sense of humor, which I appreciate, and have increased my thirst for knowledge."

Patton also appreciates the staff in the School of Continuing Studies who have guided him through his degree plan. "They have made this as easy and painless as possible," he says. "Special thanks to my academic advisor, Deidra Kelly, who somehow manages to keep me on the right track."

As a veteran, Patton also receives support from Phil Labrie, Whitworth's assistant director of military & veterans outreach. "Honestly, Whitworth is the first campus I've been on where I felt my service was valued," Patton says. "The first info session I attended, I applied for and received a Whitworth Military Service Scholarship to help cover tuition." During Whitworth's 2020 Veterans Day Ceremony, Patton was coined by then-President Beck Taylor, which was a special experience for him.

So what will Patton do once his long-awaited degree is in hand? "First of all, I'm going to frame it and put it up on my 'I Love Me Wall' (every veteran has one… even those who say they don't)," he says. "Though the original purpose was to just finish the degree, I've been thinking about where I can volunteer and be of assistance. I'm going to look for volunteer opportunities that can use someone with a degree on a part-time basis."


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