|ISU alumnus cut, persevered his way towards college degree|
|Written by Philip Lasseigne, Daily Vidette Features Editor|
|Thursday, 03 September 2009 21:55|
For every college student who dreams of tossing their graduation cap in the air, walking across the stage and receiving their diploma, hours upon hours of work is required, both in and out of the classroom.
No one knows this better than Nick Vaughan, a recent ISU graduate who took an unusual, yet uplifting, route to get a college degree.
Nick Vaughan, a Twin cities resident, isn’t like most recent alumni. After dropping out of ISU earlier in his life, Vaughan returned to school and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree last December at the age of 52.
“It was the best thing I ever did, going back to school,” Vaughan said. “It was a great feeling.”
After attending ISU for several years in the 1970’s, Vaughan dropped out of the university in 1979 because he “was never a good student.” From there he went on to attend cosmetology school and began working on people’s hair, but still intended to return to ISU after working for a few years.
However, a few years turned into 25 years with only one attempt to return to college. He continued working as a barber and hairstylist until the age of 47 when he decided to go back to school and pursue his degree.
The sale of the business that employed him was one factor that brought him back to school, but the encouragement from his family played a crucial factor.
“My daughter wanted to quit the violin and I told her ‘we don’t quit, we’re not a family of quitters,’ and my daughter told me ‘you’re a quitter, you quit college,’” Vaughan said. “I told her that I would take care of that and go back to school if she would keep playing the violin.”
Returning to school was not an easy task for Vaughan. Before coming back to ISU, his advisors told him to go to Heartland Community College to raise the 2.07 GPA that he inherited from his first go-around at ISU.
Steve Adams, the vice president of student affairs and long-time friend of Vaughan’s, knew how difficult going back to school would be for Nick, but soon realized how motivated he was.
“I’ve been in this business a long time and my thing was ‘I hope he realizes how difficult this is going to be,’” Adams said. “It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that this was a guy who had a tremendous amount of determination. This was a guy who was willing to do anything that was necessary for him to finish his Bachelor’s degree.”
While Vaughan’s initial classes were difficult, they were not the only things that he struggled with. He also faced a lack of self-confidence.
“When I first went back to school I was so nervous. The first test I took I could barely write my name I was so nervous,” he said. “I had very little self-confidence and that was a thing I’ve improved on the most, too.
“It’s doing what you need to do to get that passing grade and proving to yourself that you can do it,” he added.
As if going back to school wasn’t hard enough on him, finding time for his family, classes and work proved to be just as difficult as the class-work at both Heartland and ISU.
“I worked 40 to 50 hours per week while taking two classes per semester and one in the summer,” he said. “I had two full-time jobs.”
However difficult the experience was, Vaughan kept at it. He sat front row and center for every class he took and literally studied the recommended three hours per credit hour he was enrolled in.
Dina Vaughan, Nick’s wife of 18 years, said that Nick’s overall effort was much better during his last experience at ISU.
“He did a lot of study groups and met with teachers a lot,” she said. “He did it the right way the last time. He got to know the students and teachers. He tried to organize things better than he had ever done before.”
Even with the level of difficulty of his classes and all the work that they required, Nick never considered dropping out of school again.
“I never came close to quitting because I had quit twice and wasn’t going to quit again,” he said. “I was going to be 52 and a college graduate or 52 and not a college graduate. I wanted to be 52 and a college graduate. It was a goal I’d always wanted to do.”
In the end, all of his hard work paid off. Vaughan graduated in the fall of 2008 with a Business Marketing degree and a 3.34 GPA.
“I never thought that I would actually do it until after graduation,” Vaughan said, almost at a loss for words. “…I kept telling myself ‘you’re a college graduate … you’re a college graduate…’ I just couldn’t believe it.”
Vaughan was not the only one moved by his graduation. His wife and Adams were both touched as he walked across the stage.
“I’m the master of ceremonies at the commencement [ceremony],” Adams said. “I stepped forward as his name was announced and as he came and shook hands with the dean. I hugged him and he hugged me. I said ‘you are the happiest guy on the face of the earth right now. You deserve every bit of this.’
“He cried and I cried too, because here was a guy who was much maligned for even attempting to do this, and in the end, he was the guy who finally did it,” he added.
With his hard-earned degree, Vaughan decided to take his hair-styling skills to the next level by opening his own business. His shop, Nick’s Clips, is located on El Dorado Road in Bloomington and is the result of years of hard work and determination.
“[Opening my business] made me realize that I’m closer to reaching my potential than I was before,” he said. “You’re never done striving to be better or improving yourself, but getting that degree proved to myself that you can do anything once you set your mind to it.”
At Nick’s Clips, Vaughan offers his customers cutting, coloring and perm styles. His shop also features wireless internet and televisions for the his clients to watch as their hair is being worked on.
Just beyond the entrance of his new business hangs his hard-earned diploma, graduation photo and tassel.
It’s fitting, that even after graduating, he will still be able to keep his eye on the prize.