Commencement Stories: Retired U.S. Marine Mike Sturgess is Never Too Old to Learn

Mike Sturgess, Veteran, Excelsior CollegeEver so often, Michael Sturgess, a work order assistant at Watervliet Arsenal in upstate New York, is approached by a co-worker, curious as to his experiences returning to school as an adult.

The most common question, of course, is “why.”

“(I tell them) you’re never too old to learn,” said Sturgess, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, who retired as a Master Sergeant, E-8 in 2006. “The more education you get, the smarter you are and easier it will be for you to relate to other people as well as helping you attain more job opportunities.”

That’s why Sturgess was motivated to take courses at Schenectady Community College upon his retirement from the military. After he graduated with an associate degree, he used his credits towards an undergraduate degree at Excelsior College after learning of the school’s liberal transfer policy.

“I looked at other colleges (but) Excelsior appealed to me because it was military-friendly,” said Sturgess, discussing the efficiency of the enrollment process, his interaction with the advisors, and flexibility of the curriculum.

Interested in law, he enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts program because it “had a bit of everything” and kept his horizons open.

As in the military, Sturgess made sure to keep a routine with his studies. This meant working until 4:30 pm, relaxing and eating dinner. At 6:00 pm he started hitting the books. He would work on his papers and assignments during the week to ensure enough time to revise, edit, and properly format his work on the weekends before the assignments were due.

His wife was his “drill sergeant,” said Sturgess, “standing behind me the whole time, making sure I was getting my work done.” She’ll attend Commencement this July, alongside Sturgess’ mom, aunt and potentially two grown sons depending on their work schedule.

And his advice to fellow veterans thinking about returning to school?

“You can’t just sit back and expect things to happen for you. You have to go to school and make something of your life,” said Sturgess. “Education is the key and Excelsior helped me keep my horizons open and I’m sure it will help other veterans. People think school only makes you book smart; well I’m not just book smart, (my education) gave me the opportunity to be people smart as well.”

Spoken like a true Marine – and college graduate.

Name: Michael Sturgess, Sergeant Major E-8 (retired), United States Marine Corps
Position: Work Order Assistant, Watervliet Arsenal,
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts