GODFREY — After more than 20 years as a college student, Mike Walker, now can say he has accomplished a major life goal — he is a university graduate.
Walker, 47, of East Alton, a 2008 Lewis and Clark Community College alumni, earned his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville this past weekend.
Walker says his is not the average college student’s story, and he would like people to know they can accomplish any goal, if they don’t mind hard work, persistence and tolerance.
“I was born with cerebral palsy, so there is that, which limits me physically, like I can’t drive and have to take the bus everywhere including school,” Walker said. “I didn’t have it the best growing up either, but I decided early on that I wasn’t going to let that stop me because I am smart. People call me a math wizard. Math and science just come naturally to me.”
Walker said after high school he decided he would prove a lot of people wrong. He knew he could graduate from college, so that became his goal — no matter how long it took.
“Any time anyone would discourage me or tell me that I couldn’t get my degree, which did happen quite often, I would say, ‘Mike, turn that ‘no’ into an ‘on’,’ and it worked. I still can’t believe I have my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.”
Walker said Lewis and Clark is like a second home to him, and has been for most of his college years. He attended L&C from 1991 until he received his associate in science degree in engineering in 2008.
“Graduating from Lewis and Clark was a big day for me and an emotional day for me and a lot of people at the college. I was there for 17 years and got to know a lot of nice people, and tutored a lot of students in math along the way,” Walker said.
“Lars Hoffman, Linda Chapman and especially Terry Darling had an impact on me. They believed in me. Terry was my math instructor and she knew I was capable of a lot and always pushed me to do more, and she was right, I did.”
Walker said he has gotten to meet some great people at SIUE these last few years and was named an honorary member of Pi Tau Sigma and earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the SIUE Student Government this fall.
So what’s next for Walker? He has more goals, including taking and passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.
“It is a hard test to pass,” he said. “It takes six hours just to take the test, and you have to study a lot for it, but hey, after 20 years, who is counting.”
Enrollment is open for Spring 2016 classes at Lewis and Clark. For information, visit www.lc.edu/applying.