Ned Porges has never recovered from missing the deadline for becoming an Eagle Scout. One badge shy of the requirements, he turned 18 and aged out. He doesn’t do well with incompletion. For the last two years, Ned has worked doggedly to complete his education. At the age of 76, he received his PhD from the University of Washington, 38 years after beginning his studies there.
Ned’s educational trajectory did not flow easily. As an undergrad at the University of Denver, he didn’t finish his degree in hospitality/tourism but learned enough to be hired in the industry. A few years later, family encouraged him to complete the last few quarters. With his newly minted B.S. degree in hand, he hopped aboard his motorcycle and hightailed it for California.
In Los Angeles, Ned landed a job with the food service department of United Airlines and got married. He followed his new wife to Virginia for her MSW studies and decided to pursue a MBA degree. Part of his experience in grad school was working as a teaching assistant for the 101 business class and he realized teaching was a good fit.
Family in Seattle beckoned the couple and Ned began his teaching career. Initially, WSU hired Ned as an assistant professor for their Seattle extension and later he moved over to Highland Community College. He would stay there for 16 years. During this time, the college insisted on a PhD to continue in his position. The University of Washington admitted him as a doctoral candidate and he began his studies anew. However, life intervened. With 4 kids and a mortgage he could not finish his degree. Ned had completed all of his course work but was lacking the dissertation.
After a time, Highland discontinued the program he was teaching and Ned found a new career in Real Estate. Twenty-two more years passed.
As Ned journeyed into his 70s, he began to look at his life’s legacy. He compiled a bucket list of goals. One seemed insurmountable: the completion of his PhD. Undaunted, he spontaneously met with UW Dean Marty Howell and found a supportive advocate. The College of Education accepted his previous coursework and formed a doctoral committee to guide him.
Although UW waived the usual requirement of seven years limit for doctoral completion, Ned was given no additional special treatment. He toiled endlessly with revisions for two very long years. He struggled with the limited stamina of older age. He learned that students no longer used index cards and yellow stickies to organize notes. Microsoft Office was a mystery. Guided through a tutorial by his daughter, Norah, he finally got onboard as a “Modern Student.”
On June 6, 2017, Ned, accompanied by his supportive wife, Phyllis, presented his dissertation to his committee. His research paper looked at the political impact of international travel as an educational experience. Specifically, he studied “The Grand Tour” of Europe popular in the 1800s, the Birthright tour of Israel, and the experience of World’s Fairs. He was grilled with questions and comments and then told to wait outside while they discussed their decision.
Ned and Phyllis paced the hall with nervous anticipation. The door opened. His advisor, Dr. Joy Williamson-Lott smiled. “Please come back in Dr. Porges.” He had done it.
Ned and his advisor, Dr. Joy Williamson-Lott at his graduation