hen a neck injury ended Curt Miller’s 32-year career as drywall installer, the high-school dropout faced an uncertain future.
“They gave me a couple of options and I chose to go back to school,” said Miller. “I thought it was a waste of time at first.”
Miller, who hadn’t attended school since 1978, graduated with his associate’s degree from Olympic College this month. It was an accomplishment made even sweeter because three members of his family walked across the stage with him, earning diplomas of their own.
Miller, wife Diana Miller and daughters Michelle Miller and Jessica McMillen are all members of OC’s Class of 2019.
Diana Miller, who earned an accounting degree from OC in 1998, enrolled with her husband in the composites program to help support him. Michelle Miller, a massage therapist who had previously attended OC, was inspired to complete her degree. And McMillen earned her associate’s degree and high school diploma simultaneously through the dual-enrollment Running Start program.
“For me to walk the other day, when this is the only thing I’ve ever really graduated from, it was a hell of an accomplishment,” said Curt Miller. “To walk with my wife and two of my kids, that was phenomenal.”
“It was fun, it was stimulating. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.”
Miller and his wife of 12 years often studied together and he said their competitiveness pushed him to do well. He surprised himself by earning a 3.89 grade point average.
“I think I helped him reach his full potential,” said Diana Miller, who added that the blended family, which includes eight children, celebrated the occasion with a big bash. “It was an amazing experience (to graduate as a family) and one I’ll cherish forever.”
“I realized, dang, I’m a lot smarter than I thought,” Curt Miller said. “It was fun, it was stimulating. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.”
The degree helped him secure a management job at Lowe’s. Now he plans to enroll in the Organizational Leadership and Technical Management bachelor’s program at OC with hopes of moving into upper management at the home improvement retailer.
Diana Miller said she’ll likely be right there with him. “I can’t let him think he’s smarter than me.”
McMillen also has big plans for her future. She hopes to enter the medical field, but is still deciding whether to treat animals or humans. She plans to take classes at OC for the next six months and shadow a veterinarian before transferring to Washington State University.
The 18-year-old chose Running Start to escape crowding at South Kitsap High School and says earning her two-year college degree as a high school student gives her an advantage as she contemplates the future. “It was the best opportunity I could have picked.”