University Park, Pa. — In the fall of 2009, Glenn Early of Huntingdon County, Pa., stepped into a classroom for the first time in 33 years. He joked that on the first day of class at Penn State's University Park campus, many of his younger classmates accidentally mistook him for the instructor. Almost two years later, Early is set to graduate this month with an associate's degree in business administration.
"School has been challenging," said Early. "But it was an experience I wanted."
In the eighth grade, Early said he gave up on school when two of his teachers said he would never make it to college. Since graduating high school in 1976, Early has worked as a toolmaker for 35 years in various manufacturing facilities. His job was outsourced to China, leaving him unemployed. That was when he decided it was time to go back to school, and he called Penn State a natural choice.
Early's father attended University Park in the 1940s and is part of the reason he enrolled as an adult learner at Penn State. Early said his father is "tickled pink" that his son is receiving a degree from his alma mater.
"When I walk by Old Main and see the date it was rebuilt, I think of how my dad was here just a few years after," Early said. "I appreciate the opportunity to walk down the sidewalk and see what my dad saw."
Early said meeting new people has been the best part of returning to school, and that he has enjoyed the opportunity to tackle subjects that may have intimidated him in the past.
Early also was inducted into Alpha Sigma Lambda, an honor society that recognizes adult learners for academic achievement and leadership.
Within the next few years, Early hopes to start his own business in the industry of biodiesel production.