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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

A Life-long Learner Keeps His Promise

May 7, 2013

Bill LennonWhen Bill Lennon dropped out of high school his junior year to take over his Dad’s dry wall business after his Dad fell and broke his neck, Bill made two important promises to himself: He would one day go back and finish high school and eventually go on to get a college degree. On his 30th birthday he celebrated the acquisition of his high school diploma and last month, at 56 years old, he earned an A.S. degree in Construction Management, ready to frame.

“My family said, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this at your age,’” he laughs. But they know him well enough to know that Bill will do what he says he will do. “Pick you end result and stay with it,” says Bill. His wife, Jackie, his 6 grown kids and 14 grandchildren had no real doubts about his commitment, abilities or eventual success.

Bill has had a solid construction business for 17-years, but knew he needed to get up-to-date on new industry software, materials and techniques. “You have to know these things and can’t always rely on other people to do it for you,” he says. “I have to be self-reliant in almost everything I do.” Plus, he was tired of ‘chasing the dollars’ and wanted to feel a little more secure in his profession and ‘kind of just 9 to 5 it’ for awhile.

It took Bill a little while to get into step with his Online coursework. He tried studying at night after work, but he had little energy left over after a hard day’s effort. He started getting up at 4:30 in the morning and studying until his work day started at 7:30. He got into the habit of taking his laptop with him wherever he went and grabbing some study time whenever there was a break. “Every 15 minutes I found during the day was 15 less minutes I had to do later,” says Bill.  On the Dean’s List eleven times and with a 3.74 GPA, his system must have worked very well. He got into a rhythm and stayed with it.

There was a side benefit to Bill’s commitment to his studies. He had to give up some of the control of his business to a couple of employees who rose to the occasion and proved worthy of the additional responsibilities. “Danny just latched onto whatever I gave him, showed some tenacity and took up some of the slack so I could study,” says Bill. That included his 2nd oldest son, Billy, “who impressed me with newly discovered capabilities and earned some independence,” he says.

Bill got lots of support from his Online instructors, too. “These guys had more than just ‘the stuff’ and had the ability to relate without talking down to you,” he says. Bill knew that when he completed the Construction Management program he would walk away with something of value to himself and his customers.

“A lot of guys have a sign on their truck, but that doesn’t mean they can do what it says they can do.” Bill has made certain that any sign he displays, any work he has committed to, and any word he has given means something.


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