mark-mccarterFull-time newspaper work and full-time college was a bad mix in the early 1970s, so I never completed work on my degree. I was fortunate enough to advance up the ladder in the business and even take a brief detour into some PR jobs before joining The Times in 1998. However, there was always sense of unfulfilled potential in my not completing work on my degree.

Then came the Adult Degree Program at Athens State — and this “was meant to be” scenario. The program was introduced at a press conference at the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County, where my wife works. After she attended the event, she talked to me about it. I blew it off. Not enough time. Why do I need a degree now? But I finally looked into it and it seemed a good fit.

The program enabled me to apply life experiences toward credit. By no means, though, was it as simply as “here’s my resume, look what I’ve done.” The program is geared to what the student has learned and how he or she has grown in those experiences. Indeed, there is a required class that instructs the student on how to prepare the learning portfolios to be submitted for credit.

I was able to transfer a decent amount of hours from the colleges I attended 40 years earlier. With the Liberal Studies path, I was fortunate to pick and choose courses that intrigued me, notably in English, political science and history. I took most of my classes on-line — the one great regret is not being able to make enough time for a variety of lecture classes — and was able to graduate in May 2014.

“My senior year in my senior years,” I called it in a column.

Not long after I was accepted and began taking courses, another opportunity landed in my lap — the chance to write a book. As a sportswriter and a baseball fan/historian, a publisher contracted me to write a book about the 50-year history of the Southern League, a Class AA minor league that I had covered in-depth at newspaper stops in Chattanooga and Huntsville. In May 2013 I embarked on that challenge, to report, research and write the book, doing nearly 100 interviews.

If nothing else, my time management skills increased and my sleep window shrank, to juggle nine hours of classes (mostly online) with the work on the book and a full-time job with weird hours. For the fall 2013 semester, Dr. Kevin Dupre enabled me to apply the work on the book as “directed studies” in English. He offered great encouragement and support along the way.

I’m proud to say that a month or so after my graduation, a copy of “Never a Bad Game” joined the shelves of the Athens State library.

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