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Recent graduate went to great lengths to earn master's

May 31, 2011
For more information, contact Bob Luder at 816.501.2434.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo - -When Larry Black reached the podium to deliver the graduate student address at Avila University's 2011 commencement ceremony, he had reason to feel especially proud. His road to graduation was like no other among the 350 or so fellow graduates who walked across the stage that day at the Independence Events Center to receive diplomas.

According to his introduction that day, Black, who completed a master of science in counseling psychology,f was selected by Avila's graduate faculty to represent the graduate students because of his motivation, commitment to learning and quality of his work. None could doubt at least those first two qualities.

Black earned a bachelor of science in human resource management from Friends University in Wichita in 1992 and owned and operated a radio station for several years. But when he began working at a substance abuse treatment center in 2001, that experience motivated him to pursue a graduate degree. As Black said during his commencement speech, "What followed was an odyssey that I couldn't have imagined when I first began."

The odyssey started Aug. 27, 2007, with the start of classes just a couple weeks away, when Black began suffering chest pains while at work. He made his way to a hospital in St. Joseph, Mo., and two days later, a surgeon replaced four arteries in his heart.

That would've been enough to convince anyone to postpone making a 200-mile round-trip drive to and from school once a week. But Black, who describes himself as stubborn, wasn't having any of that. For the next couple of months, he had his wife drive him to Avila and wait in the car while he attended class, then drive him home late at night until he finally regained the strength to drive himself.

He thought that was the hard part.

But then, early in 2010, Black accepted a job as a program director of the Norton Valley Hope Facility in Norton, Kan. The problem? Norton is located in the northwest corner of Kansas, a six-hour drive from Kansas City and Avila. No problem for Black. From Feb. 26 to Dec. 16, 2010, once a week, Black jumped in his car in Norton at 10 a.m., arrived at Avila around 4 p.m. – if traffic was decent – go to class, leave by 6 p.m. and get back home around midnight.

It was difficult, to be sure, but Black never gave up his dream. And, that was the message he delivered to his fellow students that day during Avila's commencement. Persistence is everything.

"Life gives us a lot of reasons to quit, many of them good reasons," Black said during his speech. "It certainly has with me. There are lots and lots of self-help books about how to be a success. But none of them can tell you anything more important than this – just keep showing up. Don't quit, be persistent, don't let circumstances or bad breaks keep you from your goal. No matter what you want out of life, don't give up."



Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.