MANCHESTER — Jeff Bryk has learned how to prioritize more than most undergraduates.
Working full-time, getting married and having a child added to his academic workload over the last nine-and-a-half years, which made Thursday’s commencement ceremonies at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester all the more meaningful.
Bryk, 39, processed with his fellow graduates from the Class of 2014, finally completing what he set out to do nearly 10 years before by obtaining his bachelor’s degree.
“I’m actually really going to miss it,” Bryk said. “It was a great challenge and a lot of fun. I recommend it for anyone thinking about going back. It’s so rewarding. It really is.”
Bryk, a native of Newport who now lives in Auburn, was among the 362 students participating in the commencement. Of the 242 undergraduates, he was a generation or two ahead of many of his classmates celebrating the achievement in the traditional cap and gown ceremony outside UNH-Manchester’s Millyard facility.
A business major, Bryk was unsure where his degree would lead from his current job servicing emergency power generators. He said having options that come with a BA was a tremendous feeling.
“It’s one of those things. You realize life’s going by,” he said before taking his seat with the other graduates inside a giant tent set up in the parking lot near Arms Park.
“It’s been a long interesting trip,” he said. “Sometimes you sit there and say ‘Is this really happening?’”
UNH president Mark Huddleston noted Bryk’s achievement during his opening remarks after the graduates were led to their seats by the New Hampshire Police Association’s pipes and drums corps.
The keynote address was from Deborah Watrous, executive director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council. Watrous noted the importance of humanities during her speech and also pushed the new graduates to continue learning wherever their new lives take them.
“One of the benefits of the college experience is being thrown together with people from many backgrounds and diverse experiences. Once you’re out of the classroom, however, it can be a lot more difficult to engage with people and ideas that are different,” she said. “I urge you to seek out such opportunities to do so.”