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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Leavenworth man, 63, is a new college grad

  • Sidney Brown of Leavenworth said he was nervous on May 14, perhaps like a number of other college graduates.

     


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  • Sidney Brown of Leavenworth said he was nervous on May 14, perhaps like a number of other college graduates.
    Sitting in Charles Koch Arena at Wichita State University, Brown said he found himself hoping for a bit of simple luck.
    “I thought, ‘I know I’m going to trip when I get up there,’” he said.
    Brown didn’t trip. Instead, he said he was greeted with a roar of applause from the crowd and from his fellow students and a handshake from the president of WSU as he crossed the stage and flipped the tassel on his cap. According to Brown, who missed his high-school graduation ceremony because of mononucleosis contracted from the silverware in the school cafeteria, it made the jitters worth it.
    “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he said.
    Brown, 63, received a Bachelor of General Studies degree that day, his first college diploma and the culmination of a 45-year dream.
    Throughout the time since 1965 when his post high-school academic career began, he said the memory of his father was ultimately what kept him motivated toward his goal. Brown said his father graduated college with a 4.0 grade-point average and had always wanted to provide the same opportunity for his children. But Brown said there wasn’t enough money available to send everyone to a big college, and at the time he wanted his brother Keith to be able to attend the Kansas City Art Institute.
    “Because of that, I always had it in the back of my mind,” he said of continuing his education. “So every time I got the chance, I put in one or two hours, and finally got it down to zero.”
    Sid first enrolled at Kansas City Kansas Community College, but after a year he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.
    In 1974, after returning from duty, he said he took a job as a patrolman with the Leavenworth Police Department and finished his work at KCKCC. The chief of the Leavenworth Police Department at the time, Frank Robertson, was teaching satellite courses in criminal justice Wichita State and Sid said he soon enrolled.
    But when he left the department in 1978, Sid said his academic career was once again put on hold. Over the years, he said he held a number of other jobs.
    “If you can name a profession, I’ve been a part of it,” he said.
    Sid said he had not thought of finishing his undergraduate degree for a while when he was approached by his longtime friend Ernest Evans, a professor of political science at KCKCC, about giving it one more try. Sid said he visited the WSU campus and advisor Bob Rozzelle before enrolling in online classes in pursuit of a general studies degree.
    Page 2 of 2 - Evans said he served as a kind of academic advisor for Sid, as well as sometimes a “sounding board” for writing assignments. Though he does work with non-traditional students at KCKCC, Evans said Sid is one of the older students that he has seen.
    And because of the journey he took to come back to school, Evans said he has told Sid’s story to a number of students and potential students at KCKCC.
    “The real importance of Sid is just the inspiration he’s been,” he said.
    Even judging from that first visit, Rozzelle said he agreed that Sid’s story was unique.
    “He’s a persister and a delight,” he said. “I smile when I think about him.”
    It wasn’t always easy. Sid said without the support that he had from his wife, Carol, and from Evans, he could never have completed his degree. Throughout his studies, Sid said he had doubts about being able to finish or whether the work was worth it for a degree that he might not ever need.
    “But the closer it got, the more excited I became, and I can’t tell you the thrill of walking across that stage and shaking the president’s hand, because the student body just went nuts,” he said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
    Looking ahead, Sid said now that he has his bachelor’s degree, he does have some ideas of how to put it to use.
    “I would like to teach a little bit,” he said, mentioning that he has sat in on several of Evans’ classes. “Whether I will or not, I guess that’s another dream — we’ll have to find out.”
    As a distant relative of O. Henry, Sid added he wouldn’t mind becoming a writer — he’s also considered pursuing postgraduate work.
    For right now, he said he is happy to provide advice for those also looking to hit the books again.
    “It just takes a little elbow grease,” Sid said. “And a little determination.”
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