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Forty-one years, three months, 28 days

February 26, 2014
Judy Santacaterina and Matt Swan join Bob Dalaskey

Judy Santacaterina and Matt Swan join Bob Dalaskey

There are some stories that should be told, and some that should be heard, but this story is one that should be celebrated.

Bob Dalaskey, a 59-year-old divorced father of two living in Naperville, “cooked chicken for KFC during high school to save money for college.” He enrolled at NIU in August of 1972 as a business and marketing major.

“I struggled with some classes, received average grades and, after a couple of years, I ran out of money for school. I tried working while going to school, but that only increased the distractions, so I took a semester off to work. I returned to school the following year, but soon ran out of money again. When I took another semester off after completing 93 hours, I started to find my way in the business world,” he says.

“Although I always intended to return to finish my degree someday, I started what turned out to be a successful business career in sales, later got married and started a family.”

As mothers will do, Dalaskey’s mom regularly asked when he was going to go back and finish his degree.

“My mother died on Sept. 11, 2006. I made a New Year’s resolution that year to go back to school to finish my degree and did not do it. I made the same resolution the next year … and did not do it … and the next year, the same. Too busy, traveling too much, not enough time,” he says. “Then my dad died in February of 2011, and I made the resolution all over again – and finally did something about it.”

Bob Dalaskey

Bob Dalaskey

Dalaskey drove to DeKalb and found Judy Santacaterina, the NIU student adviser for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Santacaterina discovered that Dalaskey only needed 11 more classes to graduate and that many of his classes taken 35 years before were still credit worthy for a liberal arts degree. “I gingerly made my way through all the online tools now so readily available to students, but very foreign to me, and signed up for two classes in January 2012. I earned a ‘B’ and an ‘A,’ so I signed up for two more classes that summer session then two more in the fall, two the following spring and then two more in summer again, and one class this past fall, earning straight A’s the rest of the way.”

Dalaskey, who completed his classes with a combination of traditional, online and hybrid classes. He graduated in December.

Looking back, he is grateful to his instructors and impressed with the students.

“I think back fondly now on Judy Santacaterina; her husband, Professor Matt Swan (one of my instructors), Professor Toth and Professor Calleja; among all the other teaching staff that was so kind and patient with me while I finished my classes,” he says. “The other students were amazing, too! The young kids in class are just so smart and talented today.”

Given his decades-long affiliation with NIU, he is blessed with an uncommon perspective.

“Taking 41 years, 3 months, and 28 days to graduate from college, I am humbled by the experience, and thank NIU for the opportunity. I am very proud of the school as I look back at the growth and development that I have seen firsthand, on campus, over the past 40 years,” he says. “Because it was not an easy path to take to earn a degree, this all means so much more to me now. What drove me was a combination of perseverance and wanting to keep my promises.”

Any advice for current students? “If you can, complete your degree in four years, please do so, by all means, or you might just end up in an article for NIU Today!”

by Jodie Butler