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"Slow and Steady: You can still finish the race!" College Graduate completes 26-year journey

Mark Haney graduation
Posted at 4:00 PM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 19:48:56-04

TULSA, Okla. — Mark Haney's college career's been a marathon, not a sprint.

"It's taken 26 years," said Mark Haney.

He's about to cross the finish line at OSU-Tulsa, and while he admits he may have taken longer than others, he has no regrets.

"I got to do everything I wanted to do," said Mark.

His story starts at East Central High School, where he met his wife, Jill.

"We were high school sweethearts. I proposed when she turned 18. We got married at 18, bought a house at 19, and had our first child, Jessica, in 1998 in the spring. I realized that wouldn't be suitable in the long term, so I started my college journey in 1998," said Mark.

He enrolled at Tulsa Community College and took it slow since Mark worked full-time and had a growing family to support.

"I aligned the schedule as best we could and made several adjustments as the seasons of life changed," said Mark.

The Haneys would go on to have four children. And just as important as becoming a college grad- was being a present husband and dad.

So, how did college take 26 years?

"I didn't go straight through. There were life events. So, I did take a couple of classes. Sometimes, I had to back off to one class at a time. Each time a child was born, I took some time off. She got Cancer in the journey, so I had to withdraw and take some time off or that, so there was some life that went on," said Mark.

"We're so thankful that's in my past and that I'm not dealing with Cancer anymore. So it's such an awesome thing to be done with that, but it has been a journey of 26 years of a lot of life," said Jill Haney, Mark's wife.

Mark credits his support system, which includes his family and the staff at OSU-Tulsa, with helping him through his college career.

"Mark is like many of our adult students. He's balancing a lot of different things," said Beverly Morris, Director of Academic Advising at OSU-Tulsa.

Morris has been working with students on campus for 25 years.

"That first semester, he came in and said I can only do one class, and I said OK. Well, that's a good place to start," said Morris.

Now, she can't wait to see him walk the walk. "I expect I will be on the stage, and he will hand me his card so his name can be read. I have been known to hug students and certainly have big smiles," said Morris.

Mark will be the third in his family to graduate college.

"Our oldest has already graduated; she's from law school. Our second graduate, he's in medical school. Our third is going to OSU in the fall, so he's graduating high school three days after I graduate from OSU-Tulsa, so I beat him. I'm racing our fourth daughter," said Mark.

They'll all be there to cheer on Dad, just like he's always shown up for them.

"My son, who is in university, pulled me aside and said he was proud of me for doing it. He respected that I was trying to finish. I didn't know that. It hit me square," said Mark. "It's been really inspiring, just the perseverance and his sticking with it. I know he's inspired many other people," said Jill.

Mark will graduate with a Business Management degree from OSU and a 4.0 grade point average.

As this college chapter comes to a close, here's Mark's biggest takeaway.

"It was a journey, but you get to learn to prioritize what matters," said Mark.

A "marathon man," proving you can have it all if you go at your own pace.

Mark will graduate at the Union Multipurpose Activity Center on Monday, May 13, at 6:30 p.m. Congratulations, Mark and all the grads!

If Mark's story inspires you and want to go back to school, here are links to get started.

Tulsa Community College

Oklahoma State University-Tulsa

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