“I knew that if I just kept knocking classes out, that eventually this day would come,” said Lowell Bush, recently re-enlisted Army Reserves soldier and respiratory therapist stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Bush is a 2016 graduate of Ottawa University’s online undergraduate program, and traveled from Texas to attend his class’s graduation ceremony Saturday at Ottawa University’s residential campus, 1001 S. Cedar St., Ottawa.

“I’m 40, finally checking off this chapter to earn my degree, and I’m excited,” Bush said.

Born in Greenville, Mississippi, Bush had trouble with traditional college, opting instead for a military career, which began in July 2000.

“I took the ASVAB, and they told me I could pick what I wanted. I had the pick between a dental hygienist or a respiratory therapist. Respiratory therapist had the higher signing bonus,” he laughed. “I didn’t know what respiratory was.”

However, his attraction to the medical field was no accident, Bush said.

“My mom is in the medical field, she’s a phlebotomist. I used to be a candy-striper, go to work with my mom and pass out things. I had always been around the medical field.”

Bush has had a good experience in the military, he said, but met educational obstacles that hindered his upward advancement.

“I’d escalated up the scale and obtained my highest level of respiratory [certification] … I just knew I wanted to do more. I wanted more autonomy, to make more decisions,” he said. “I chose to try and do a Physician’s Assistant program.”

After applying several times and being placed on the alternate list, Bush knew he needed a degree to boost his chances, he said, not only in the military but beyond.

“I always knew that obtaining this degree would be beneficial. It opens up more doors that I can apply for civilian programs, because most of the programs I had investigated, you have to have a bachelor’s,” he said.

Bush heard of Ottawa University through some of his coworkers, he said. After making the decision to enroll in spring 2014, Bush found a much better online learning experience than in the traditional classroom, he said.

“I’ve tried school in the past, but this online program, it engaged me a lot more. I was having to read more, having to get into the threads of [collaboration] with my classmates,” Bush said, noting that the larger opportunity for contribution to his classes was appealing.

“When I was in the classroom, I could learn the information, but hardly contribute. This forced me to contribute a lot more,” he said. “I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got to be getting old because I’ve got more to talk about.’”

Bush brought his whole family to witness the graduation ceremony, he said, including his three children.

“Education is very important to our family. To see a milestone like this, I want to be able to share this with them. They’re young right now, and this might inspire them to fulfill their goals. I feel like this is a great adventure for them.”

For anyone thinking of trying online education for themselves, Bush had advice and encouragement.

“I would tell them, they can do it, as long as you stay dedicated.” he said. “Try it out by taking one class, see how you like it, get your computer skills up. If they aren’t familiar with writing papers and things like that, there are a lot of tools that can assist them.”

Though he is looking at master’s programs and considering pursuing a doctorate in the future, for now, he is simply happy to have reached his goal.

“It’s breathtaking for me. I’m finally here”