ALPENA - An Alpena Community College graduate has a unique opportunity to sit next to one of his mentors at his graduation - his grandfather. Ryan Clark has been a student at ACC for the last two years working toward his associate in applied science and plans to attend Michigan State University for mechanical engineering. His grandfather, Patrick Clark, also has been attending ACC to earn his associate in arts degree after taking a 56 year break from classes.
Patrick Clark originally attended ACC in 1957, which was the first year it opened on Johnson Street. He attended the college for two years, but in between working, school and being involved in the Navy, he never finished the credits he needed to graduate.
Then his life took him to the Bahamas to work for AUTEC, an underwater warfare center on Andros Island as a division manager for support services.
News Photo by Nicole Grulke
Patrick Clark and his grandson Ryan Clark will be walking across the stage to accept their associate degrees tonight at ACC’s graduation ceremony.
"My kids and family would come visit me on base and spend the summer in the Bahamas," Patrick said. "There were some beautiful beaches, scuba diving, and the water was crystal clear."
After living away from his family for so long, Patrick decided to move back to Alpena.
"I was born and raised here, and I always knew I wanted to come back," he said. "There is always someplace you feel in your heart as home, and this is mine."
Patrick was apprehensive to go back to school when he returned to Alpena. He said he put it off for a few years, but finally decided to "just do it."
"I think the main reason I did it was to set an example for my grandkids," he said. "If they can see their grandpa do it, they can too. I wanted to cross it off my bucket list."
He called ACC and the staff searched the archives,as he called them, to find his credits. He discovered he only needed a few more credits to graduate, so he signed up for a ceramics course.
"I loved my ceramics class," he said. "I didn't know I was as creative as I ended up being. It was fun and I really enjoyed it. I would recommend it to the seniors looking to do something in the evening. I may take another course in it."
In the course, Patrick made figurines for his grandchildren, including a Noah's Ark.
"I'm so glad I can graduate with my grandson," he said. "It puts the topping on the cake to be able to graduate with one of my grandkids."
Ryan has been working hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA this year. He said he never saw his grandfather during classes, because they were in two different buildings, but he did coincidentally meet up with him when they were picking up their caps and gowns.
"He paid for both our caps and gowns," Ryan said. "We're going to be sitting right next to each other at graduation."
The main courses Ryan took for his degree were math, science and physics. He has been a straight A student throughout high school and college, and always has worked hard to maintain his grades.
"It's a difficult course," he said. "You definitely have to enjoy math."
Ryan and his grandfather have been doing things together since Ryan was small. He would go hunting with his grandfather, four-wheeling, and boating on Hubbard Lake. Ryan said he really enjoyed visiting Patrick at the base when he lived in the Bahamas.
"I think it's a really nice accomplishment for him to complete," Ryan said. "He's back home after traveling all over and now he can get his degree. It's a pretty cool accomplishment."
Patrick said he won't be looking for a job with his new degree.
"I'm 76, so I won't be out pounding the pavement for a job," he said.
He won't be going to a university either. He said he'll probably join Ryan for his graduation from MSU, but won't be in a cap and gown that time.
"I've gone as far as I can go," Patrick said. "I'm very proud of Ryan, he's going to do great things."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.