02/06/06 — Miles to go before he got his diploma

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Miles to go before he got his diploma

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on February 6, 2006 1:49 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Recent Mount Olive College graduate Wayne Oliver demonstrated what it means to go the extra mile to get a good college education.

He accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to become a medallion member on two separate airlines, rented enough cars to earn nine free days, survived four hurricanes, never missed a class, graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and, in July, he and wife Karen became parents to twins.

The 34-year old husband and father already knew about sacrifice. After high school, he served in the U.S. Navy for seven years, earning numerous medals and letters of commendation before a career ending injury left him a disabled American veteran.

Honorably discharged from the Navy, Oliver sought employment in the area he knew best, nuclear power. He began his career with Progress Energy in 1995 and is currently a contract manager responsible for the start up and commissioning of new power plants across the country.

But Oliver wanted more. Specifically, a college degree to take him to the next level in his career or to fall back on if necessary. Oliver found out about Mount Olive College through his supervisor, mentor and personal friend, Bill Hickman, also an MOC student.

Oliver enrolled in the MOD program at the Research Triangle Park location in August of 2004 and for the next 16 months, "going the extra mile" became his daily routine.

He lives in Florence, S.C., and works in Lakeland, Fla. A "typical" week for him included flying from his home in South Carolina to work in Florida. On the weekends he would fly home, rent a car, drive two and a half hours to his Monday night class in RTP, stay in a hotel, and catch the 6 a.m. flight back to Florida to be at work by 9:30 Tuesday morning.

During this experience, Oliver accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to become a medallion member on two separate airlines and rented enough cars to earn nine free days. And, he did it all at his own expense. Being a contract employee, he did not receive any type of tuition assistance and living out-of-state, he did not qualify for N.C. tuition grants or loans.

His family expanded on Independence Day, when Anthony Michael and Allie Michelle joined their 4-year-old sister, Lily.

He managed it all, he said, by having a plan.

"Time management was crucial. I had the week planned down to the hour every week. My time was broken up between work, family, school and travel. I could tell you in advance each week what I had time for and what it would be spent on. These are the same traits I have used since graduating from high school. The military teaches you discipline and time management," he said.

When it came time to receive his diploma in Kornegay Arena on Dec. 17, he said he felt a mix of emotions that included a great sense of accomplishment, pride, as well as relief.

"I am the first in my family to graduate from college and I did it the hard way, which makes it even more special. I traveled for school, traveled for work and grew a family, but it was all worth it because I can now say I am a college graduate, and that is something no one can take from me," he said.