Nearly 30 years after he first enrolled, a Los Angeles man finally achieved his dream of graduating from UC Berkeley.
A dedicated student and father of two, Hatcher Parnell, 50, made the trip from L.A. to Oakland twice a week to attend classes. He’s now happily graduating with a degree in sociology.
“It’s a culmination of 30 years,” said Parnell. “It’s very exciting. It was something that I set on to accomplish with a lot of support from family and friends.”
Parnell nearly had enough credits to graduate from Berkeley in the late ‘90s but was forced to drop out because he couldn’t afford to pay for classes anymore.
“The main reason is back then, finances were really tough for me,” said Parnell. “I got to a point where I just couldn’t continue to pay to put myself through school.”
Parnell took on various jobs on campus instead, including as a campus police officer, to earn money while putting his studies on the back burner.
Parnell eventually moved back to Southern California as a married man and settled down while starting a family. He took a job with USC Athletics where his boss encouraged him to finish what he started at UC Berkeley nearly three decades ago.
“He thought it was important for me and he said that he would work with me and give me the time to do it,” said Parnell.
That means commuting to his classes by flying out of Long Beach Airport to Berkeley.
“I fly out twice a week, over 100 flights over the course of a year,” said Parnell. “It was exhausting but you know what? At the end of the day, I knew the goal was going to be worth it, so I just pushed and pushed through those sleepless nights and days. I just got it done.”
Parnell also credits his wife, Anna, for making the otherwise trying journey the best it could be.
“It was really hard but he made it easy because he worked really hard and he was always present at home,” she said. “He really did a great job.”
“It was just a sigh of relief, a sigh of happiness and a sigh of accomplishment,” said Parnell.
The most special moment during graduation was Parnell’s 8-year-old son walking onto the stage with Parnell as he collected his diploma and graduated.