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"Davidson Family" Helps One of its Own Earn Long-Delayed Degree

Dane Laney
Dane Laney proudly displays his diploma.

February 19, 2001
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

Though his new diploma doesn't say "Davidson," Dane Laney credits members of the Davidson College family for helping him earn it. Laney, a 50-year-old sergeant and nighttime supervisor of the college police force, recently received his bachelors degree from Western Illinois University, more than 30 years after he first enrolled in college.

"I'm living proof that 'The Davidson Family' isn't just lip service," said Laney. "After being out of college for so long I didn't know if I could do the work any more. But my friends on the faculty and staff gave me the confidence to try, and then helped me get it done."

Laney started college in 1969 at Ricks Junior College in Rexburg, Idaho. He transferred to Utah State for a semester, but was forced to withdraw and help feed his family when his father died in 1972. He enrolled again in 1981 at Appalachian State University. But he was married, and soon found it impossible to maintain his studies while supporting his wife and two daughters. He dropped out again, just eight semester hours short of his degree.

Laney has been working on the Davidson campus police force for eleven years now. As his family situation became more secure, the fact that he never completed his college degree began bothering him more and more. "I didn't know if I had the time or incentive to finish, but I decided to see what it would involve," he explained.

He discovered that Western Illinois University offered a distance learning degree program he could complete via mail and e-mail, and would accept his existing credits hours. He only had to travel to the university once in order to meet with his advisors and finalize arrangements for his course of study.

Before he could be officially enrolled, however, he had to pass a proficiency exam in English, and that worried him. "I hadn't written a paper in a long time," Laney admitted. So he turned to his friend, Professor Gill Holland of the English department, for help. Holland agreed to meet with Laney, and reviewed what he might encounter on the test. "He helped me cut through the thick study guides and gave me the confidence that I could take it and do well," Laney said.

After Laney passed the test and was admitted, Tony Butchello, associate director of career services, helped out by offering a room in which he could take tests, and by serving as his proctor. Derek Rodriguez, systems librarian, helped direct Laney toward resources for papers he wrote. Over the course of two years he took five courses, including college mathematics, three history courses, and a course in "Leisure Studies for the Elderly" that involved working with residents of the Pines Retirement Community. He completed them all successfully, and received his diploma in the mail in early February.

Though the degree doesn't earn him a pay raise, it brings Laney a great deal of pride and satisfaction. He's even planning to make one more trip to Western Illinois University in May--so that he can walk across the stage and receive his diploma with all the other graduates. "This was my Holy Grail, my quest," he explained. "And I'm so grateful that the Davidson family stepped up and helped me do it."

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson recently launched "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.

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