ACCC Honors Graduate, 53, Proves Itís Never too Late to Learn
May 30, 2008
Although he didn't receive a higher education in his younger years, 53-year-old Michael Curley of Wildwood Crest was always a voracious student of life. So it came as no surprise when he decided to enroll in school in his late 40s, and recently graduated from Atlantic Cape Community College with a degree in general studies-and a 4.0 grade point average.
At 19, the native of South Philadelphia joined the Merchant Marines and sailed all around the world. "I wasn't ready to go to college after high school," he explained. He also hitchhiked across the United States in his youth, a la acclaimed beat author Jack Kerouac.
"I didn't even know who Jack Kerouac was at the time," Curley recalled.
Along the way, he became an accomplished musician who has been playing guitar, mandolin and other instruments in the acoustic duo Mike and Vince at the Jersey Shore for years; became a master tai chi instructor and has held a secure job with FedEx for the last 23 years.
Never satisfied to sit on his laurels, his unending thirst for knowledge and personal growth propelled him to pursue a college degree in mid life. It took him six and a half years, but he feels it was well worth the time and effort.
"At first, I was going to go to acupuncture school, because I've always been interested in complementary medicine," said Curley, who's a long-time vegetarian and holistic health care aficionado. "That takes four years. I was going to California to attend acupuncture school, but my mother-in-law got sick. That's how life is."
Curley was encouraged to attend ACCC by his wife of 30 years, Mary Ellen, who also attended the college. She now works as a physical therapist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
"My wife got a great education at ACCC," Curley said. "A lot of people had discouraged her from going there because it's ‘just' a community college, but Jefferson accepted all of her credits. So she encouraged me to go there. She said it was my turn to do something."
During his college days, Curley discovered many talents he didn't know he had.
"What I discovered is that I'm a pretty good writer," he revealed. "I have a lot of stories to tell."
Otherwise, he hasn't decided how he will put his degree to use; at the moment he's taking a break from any further career pursuits and plans to stay at his FedEx job. Regardless, he strongly encourages others in his age group to continue to challenge themselves and to maintain a lifelong quest for intellectual and spiritual growth.
"Don't just take classes because of the money you think you can make," he advised. "I knew people who were taking classes because of that and their hearts weren't in it. You still have to do things that make you happy. College gives you many avenues. You can't think you're old and have nothing else to learn. You never stop learning your whole life."