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Extra, Extra!

A special commencement edition of Outlook celebrating the class of 2003 and this year's outstanding faculty and staff will hit the streets on June 13. Included will be a message from President Robert Glidden, the year's top stories and profiles of several notable students. Commencement ceremonies will be June 7 (Osteopathic Medicine), June 13 (graduate) and June 14 (undergraduate).

 

June 11, 2003
Spellman's travels the epitome of dedication
By Joseph Hughes

"What's that?" you ask. "Where's that noise coming from?"

Quickly making sense of the situation, you realize the situation: It's coming from the alarm, you're done sleeping and it's time for you to wake up and greet the day.

How often have we strained to hit the snooze bar, hoping to steal an extra few minutes of shuteye each morning? For Ohio University graduate-to-be Rick Spellman, postponing his 5 a.m. wakeup has never been an option.

Video - Click to PlayFollowing his early-morning wakeup call, Spellman shuttles his daughter to school while his son's babysitter arrives at his family's Chillicothe home. Then, he drives to Athens for classes. After his coursework concludes around noon, Spellman travels over two hours to Washington Court House, where he will work until well after 10 p.m. A trip home completes his hectic schedule.

Spellman spends an average of four hours a day driving. How does he pass the time?

"I try to stay awake," says Spellman, finishing work on a bachelor's degree in industrial technology within the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, as well as a minor in business management. "I find time to study. I daydream. I think about life after graduation and spending more time with my family."

Two years ago, Spellman - who began attending Ohio University in 1992 after a stint in the Army - was forced to postpone his studies while he cared for his wife Mechelle, who had been in a car accident.

After Mechelle recovered, Rick returned to his coursework. Juggling school, work, family and active duty in the Ohio National Guard, Spellman hopes his dedication inspires others.

"I know a lot of people speak of wishing they had time to go to school," Spellman says. "If I can find time, I hope people see that they can make time as well."

Finding time amidst the tightest of schedules hasn't been a problem for Spellman. Soon after beginning his studies at Ohio University, Spellman worked for the United Parcel Service. While with UPS and taking classes at the University, he maintained his duties with the Guard.

In 1996, following four years as a civil engineering major, Spellman shifted gears to industrial technology. Two years later, while making progress toward his IT degree, Spellman took a job with the YUSA Corporation in Washington Court House, where he still works as a quality assurance specialist.

It was during this time Spellman also dated Mechelle, his former high school classmate. Soon after she graduated from the University with a degree in fashion retail merchandising, Mechelle and Rick married; they now have two children, 6-year-old Madison and 3-year-old Mavrick.

The Russ College's enduring support of non-traditional students such as Spellman has allowed him to excel. Soon after Mechelle's accident in 2001, Associate Professor Peter Klein allowed Spellman to finish his course at a later time.

"Rick is one of the people the other students go right to for help," Klein says. "He's a leader with great maturity. He always meets deadlines. Rick's probably the busiest person in our department but he consistently does a tremendous job."

This spring, when Spellman found one of his much-needed courses cancelled, IT Chair and Gerald G. Loehr Professor James Fales came to the rescue. Fales offered to teach the class to Spellman and another similar student to help ensure both met their requirements.

"To me, Rick's story is inspiring," Fales says. "Our department's flexibility allows for many Rick Spellmans to flourish. We often have students who are in their mid-30s, married, with kids and a mortgage.

"And desire."

Fales' offer came on the heels of Spellman's return from Panama, where he spent the first week of classes on active duty with the Guard. His participation in Guard duties has kept Spellman busy some weekends as well. It could also soon send him to Iraq.

Facing an uncertain future, Spellman is taking time to celebrate. This Saturday, Mechelle, Madison and Mavrick will join other family and friends to attend Rick's graduation ceremony.

"It'll be wonderful having everyone there," says Spellman. "I'm just hoping I don't fall to my knees, crying, to thank the person handing out the diploma."

After more than 10 years and countless car trips, Spellman's dedication has paid off. He leaves Ohio University with a degree; however, he also leaves behind a lasting legacy everyone should admire.

Joseph Hughes is a writer for University Communications and Marketing. An abbreviated version of this story will run in the special commencement edition of Outlook, which also contains profiles of other inspiring Ohio University students.

 

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