International College Confers Charlotte County Graduate During 15th Annual Commencement Ceremony

Punta Gorda resident Tom Garrity has earned a bachelor’s degree in Management from International College.

Garrity, a reservist for the United States Air Force Rescue Firefighting Unit, applied with International College in September 2001. Following the events of 9/11, he was activated for duty and unable to attend classes. Garrity also temporarily left behind his job as a lieutenant with the Charlotte County Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

While stationed at a military base in Hurlburt Field, FL., Garrity determined he wanted to complete his studies with International College and earn his bachelor’s degree. He contacted the Management Program Chair, Nancey Wyant, and discussed terms for distance education. He began taking a directed studies distance education/online course in the summer of 2002 while still stationed at the Hurlburt Field base.

“It was always eating away at me to finish my degree. I had to finish. It was a personal goal,” said Garrity, 47. “I was very honored Dr. Wyant and International College were willing to be accommodating with my schedule. There used to be a time when schools were in the driver’s seat. They didn’t budge on their rules and they showed little compassion. International College does have compassion.”

Garrity admits his schedule was challenging at times, but well worth it. Garrity performed his reservist duties 24 hours at a time. On the days he was off, he’d go to the local college to use the computer. He’d log about six to eight hours working on class assignments.

“Dr. Wyant’s assignments were very intense, but motivating,” Garrity recalled.

Garrity was deactivated from duty in the fall of 2003 and re-enrolled at International College’s Punta Gorda learning site for the fall term. He wrapped up his last classes during the winter 2004 term and retired in February 9, 2004, from the U.S. Airforce Reserves as a Senior Master Sergeant. He is now looking forward to sharing his commencement experience with his wife, Jerri, to whom he has been married for 24 years, as well as his three sons, Matthew, 20, Steven, 17, and Michael, 14.

“Right now, I want to savor this moment. I’m honored I am finally finished,” Garrity said.

Wyant said she is inspired by Garrity’s determination to complete his degree.

“Tom really had to persevere to earn his degree. He made education his priority,” Wyant said. “Tom has an incredible work ethic and a strong commitment to fulfill his goals. He is a true testament to the sheer will that our International College students possess.”
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