Penn State World Campus student and helicopter pilot trainer earns top honors

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Larry Wilson’s job training Apache helicopter pilots for the U.S. Army doesn’t accommodate a regular college schedule.

“My hours are all over the place,” said Wilson, who works at Fort Rucker in Alabama. “I might be getting up to go to work at 4 in the morning, and that same semester I might transition to getting home at 1 in the morning. I needed the flexibility of being able to do my coursework on my time.”

Wilson found that flexibility with Penn State World Campus, where he pursued a B.S. in security and risk analysis online. He not only earned a degree in just three years, but excelled — achieving straight A’s in his major. Wilson was chosen as the student marshal for the College of Information Sciences and Technology, and he made his first trip to the University Park campus to lead the college at its commencement ceremony on Aug. 15.

Wilson said his selection as marshal speaks volumes about Penn State’s commitment to its online students. “There’s no preferential treatment, and that’s really cool,” he said.

"I might be getting up to go to work at 4 in the morning, and that same semester I might transition to getting home at 1 in the morning. I needed the flexibility of being able to do my coursework on my time.”

-- Larry Wilson, student marshal for the College of Information Sciences and Technology

Wilson, who is 43, spent 12 years in the Marines and then fulfilled his dream of flying by becoming an Apache helicopter pilot in the Army, where he flew combat missions over Iraq. He retired from active duty in 2009 and became a civilian instructor at Fort Rucker. In the fall of 2012, he began his studies through Penn State World Campus.

Wilson, who joined the Marines a month after graduating from high school in Northern Virginia, had only one college credit to his name when he enrolled — a math class from a local community college. But he was determined to finish his degree quickly.

“I’m not a young guy so the whole taking one or two classes each semester wasn’t going to work for me,” he said. “I didn’t want to be 50 when I graduated.”

Wilson took between four and six classes each semester and didn’t take any semesters off on his way to earning his degree.  In addition to his job, he is married and has two sons, ages 12 and 14.

“Hopefully I’ve set a good example showing them, ‘Hey, you can do it,’ ” Wilson said. “They think it’s pretty cool.”

Wilson is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead — and also about the chance to renew friendships and hobbies put on hold during his studies, including tinkering with his two Mustangs — a 1988 5.0 and a Shelby GT500.

Find out more information about earning an IT degree through the World Campus.

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Last Updated August 20, 2015