Graduation marks end of several long journeys
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Richmond began his studies at the University of Maryland University College when he was an Airman 1st Class at Kunsan.
Twenty years later, Richmond was among the dozens of servicemembers, civilians, Department of Defense employees and military dependents honored at a Sunday commencement ceremony as part of the 2004 graduating class. Richmond earned his bachelor’s degree.
“Twenty years,” said Richmond, now a fitness coordinator at Osan Air Base, shaking his head in wonder.
For UMUC, with campuses at U.S. military installations worldwide, Richmond is not an atypical graduate. In the 2004 Korea class, university administrators said, the average graduate took 13 years to get his or her degree.
The average age of this year’s graduates was 34. The youngest was 30; the oldest, 66.
“The theme of today might be of experience and longevity,” said Gary Hunt, director of UMUC-Korea.
In South Korea alone, UMUC classes are offered at some 25 sites from the Demilitarized Zone to the peninsula’s southern tip. Some 4,000 students enroll for those classes each year, officials said, becoming part of a student body 90,000-strong worldwide.
“You know what it is to stay the course,” said Donald Kirk, a foreign correspondent and author who gave the commencement address Sunday.
“Congratulations on sticking to [it] while working full-time or serving full-time.”
At Sunday’s Yongsan commencement ceremony, speakers recalled UMUC’s history, with its first class offered in Germany in 1949, and its first classes in South Korea offered on Yongsan in 1956.