Not many people return to school to finish their bachelor’s degree nearly 50 years after earning their associate’s. Even fewer people do so immediately after retiring from a successful, 40-year career and undergoing open heart surgery. Wade Coyle, however, is not most people.
“I think the last time I looked up perseverance in Webster’s,” said Dan Royalty, Coyle’s academic adviser, “there was a picture of Wade.”
Coyle, a 70-year-old grandfather of four, graduated in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in general studies with the help of EKU’s O’Donnell Scholarship. While many are driven to graduate by the prospect of career success, it’s purely a matter of personal pride for Coyle.
“I just wanted that diploma,” said Coyle. “It was a personal goal I wanted to achieve.”
Coyle earned his associate’s degree from Eastern in 1971 under the GI Bill. Soon after, his father bought the OK Cab Company in Richmond, and Coyle went into business with him, leaving him little time to pursue further education. Three years ago, he turned the company over to his son after undergoing open-heart surgery.
While most would see a major medical procedure as a cue to slow down, Coyle viewed as an opportunity; he finally had time to go back to school. He enrolled in EKU again that fall.
While Coyle called earning his degree a “rewarding experience,” it came with its share of challenges-- he named navigating technology and retaining information as some of his biggest. Instead of losing hope, Coyle upped his efforts, receiving technology help from Royalty and his grandson, with whom he shared a class during the fall 2019 semester. Those efforts paid off; both Coyle and his grandson made the Dean’s List that term.
Despite the challenges, Coyle said that his age gave him a unique advantage in the classroom. He found himself more confident and willing to speak up than his younger peers. He also attributes that courage to his experience with public speaking as pastor of Grace Evangelism Ministries of Kentucky, which he founded 15 years ago.
Graduating, Coyle said, brought about a bittersweet mix of emotions. While proud of his achievement, he enjoyed his time at Eastern and will miss being in school. In fact, he enjoyed his education so much, he is considering enrolling in a graduate program for Recreation and Parks Administration, which were among his favorite undergraduate classes.
Coyle chose not to lament delaying an in-person commencement ceremony. After all he has overcome, he instead chooses gratitude: “I’m just happy to graduate.”