PLATTSBURGH- When Gary Peacock looked across the audience at this year's Clinton Community College graduation, it was a place he didn't imagine he'd be many years ago, let along being there as class valedictorian.
The Morrisonville man addressed the more than 300 graduating students, their friends and families May 20, speaking about his pursuit of a college degree nearly 40 years after graduating from Chateaugay Central School. Peacock, who graduated with his associate's degree in humanities and social sciences, recalled how he "criss-crossed the country several times" before his first attempt at attending college in 1973.
"I registered at a Sonoma State University in northern California, and on the way to my first class, I had second thoughts," said Peacock. "I turned around and walked away from academia for almost 40 years. I just wasn't ready."
It wasn't until after 50,000 miles of hitchhiking across North America and Europe, that Peacock returned to the North Country in the late 1970s, started his own disc jockey business, and ran Peacock Music, a local record store on Smithfield Boulevard, for 25 years.
Even after having traveled far on his own path outside the world of academia, Peacock said he still questioned whether or not he should have attended college. Those questions persisted in his head, until he finally enrolled at Clinton Community College in 2009.
Even then, Peacock said he was "fully prepared to walk away again." But, he didn't. The reason? Peacock attributed it to mathematics professor Angela Barnaby, who challenged him and his fellow classmates.
"You made me want to come back," Peacock said, addressing Barnaby.
He further thanked history professor Tom Mandeville, who "truly inspired me."
"Everyday after school I would tell her about one of the great historical characters you brought to life," Peacock said.
The ability for anyone considering pursuing a college education even after the "traditional" college age is one everyone has, said Peacock. It's also an adventure he said worth having.
"Criss-crossing the country and exploring Europe are adventures that are challenging and rewarding, but always seems to end rather quickly," said Peacock. "I have come to realize that life long learning is an adventure that does not end. Each day is filled with challenges and rewards."