Graduating World Campus student wants to help others as he has been helped

April 29, 2019

Ron Hall owes his life to an American woman who organized an airlift of Vietnamese orphans from Saigon in 1975, the U.S. soldiers who defended the city before it fell to North Vietnamese forces, and the Pennsylvania couple who adopted him. In turn, he has devoted his life to helping others.

Hall, 44, is graduating this week with a bachelor of science degree in integrated social sciences earned online through Penn State World Campus and the College of the Liberal Arts.

Hall has spent much of his adult life working with orphans, disadvantaged children and people who are homeless. He currently runs a technology and internet marketing company in Nashville, Tennessee. After graduating, Hall’s goal is to pay off his mortgage and “go back to things that actually matter,” such as working with the homeless.

“Not that technology doesn’t matter, but I’d like to go back to doing something in the social services area,” he said. “Without a housing payment and with a degree in hand, I’ll be able to do that.”

As an infant, Hall was one of 200 Vietnamese orphans brought to the United States in an airlift organized by American Betty Tisdale in the days before Saigon fell. In America, Hall was adopted by a couple from Harrisburg.

“I was so sick that I probably wouldn’t have survived if I wasn’t airlifted out,” he said. “There was barely anything left of me.”

Hall doesn’t know if the help he received as a child is the source of his desire to help others, “but I do try to make the most of the sacrifices made,” he said. When he sees Vietnam veterans, “I always thank them for their service.”

Hall won’t be attending Penn State graduation ceremonies because he’ll be home taking care of his brood of foster cats, just one example of the caring that defines much of his life.

When Hall first moved to Nashville from New York City 10 years ago, he opened his home as a refuge for inner-city teenagers — up to a dozen at a time. He ended up adopting one of the teens, who is now 25 and living on her own.

“People think it’s over when they’re 18, but sometimes that’s when a parent is needed the most,” he said.

Hall is proud of the example he set for his daughter by going back to school, even though it has sometimes made scheduling a challenge.

“There was a time when she didn’t have a car, and I was driving her to work and sitting in Wendy’s three to four hours doing my World Campus homework,” he said. “I have done more World Campus work in fast food restaurants!”

Hall chose Penn State because it accepted his community college credits and because of its reputation and name recognition.

“There’s a very small handful of universities where you say the name and it’s done — no further explanation required — and that’s what Penn State offered me,” he said.

Hall credits World Campus for allowing him to attend school, work and continue with his volunteering.

“I can still live life; I can still do all these amazing things and pursue a degree at the same time,” he said.

Hall wrote about Nashville’s homeless population for one of his English courses, touring tent cities and listening to the stories of people who lived in them.

Soon afterward, Hall found himself “effectively homeless.” The house he had been renting was purchased, and the next place he was going to live wasn’t ready yet. Hall spent about five weeks at a Motel 6, with all his belongings in storage and his rescued cats living in a camper van hooked up to an air conditioner.

Hall is grateful for the support and flexibility of his World Campus teachers during that stressful time, which he later wrote about for a psychology class.

“Being able to go through that and not miss a semester — I look back at it now and think, that’s amazing,” he said. “I think my schoolwork anchored me.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about learning online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 29, 2019