MARIETTA, OH (Jan. 18, 2018)– Some people might consider standing on the pitcher’s mound at Turner Field sporting an Atlanta Braves uniform as life’s crowning achievement. Hearing the crowd roar as you pitch strike after strike is a dream held by many, but known by few. Washington State Community College (WSCC) alumnus Gary Eave, is among that elite group. The former Braves pitcher stood on the mound and played with many baseball greats, and yet still considers the walk across the stage to accept his college diploma among his greatest accomplishments.
Like many young men, baseball was Eave’s dream and it was the sport that brought him a lot of happiness growing up in Louisiana. In high school, his hardball performance got him noticed by a college recruiter from Grambling State University, and the school awarded him a scholarship to pitch as a Tiger.
But the lure of fame called and just one semester short of earning his degree in secondary education, Eave’s was presented with the opportunity to play in the big leagues. In 1985 he was the 12th round pick in the MLB Amateur Draft by the Atlanta Braves and made his debut on the mound at Turner Field in the spring of 1988. Eave’s said he thought he would have the opportunity to return and finish his degree, but “I never did,” he admitted.
By the age of 26 he retired from baseball and returned to his home state of Louisiana with his family, but Eave’s hadn’t lost sight of his desire to get his degree.
Today, the father of four is employed by Orion Engineered Carbon, one of the world’s leading suppliers of Carbon Black. More than a decade ago, Orion began working with WSCC to upgrade the technical and critical thinking skills of its employees in order to deal with new, state-of-the-art equipment and processing methods being implemented at the Belpre, OH plant. Orion was so impressed by the program, they began using it to train operators at some of their other plants in the US, which is how Eave’s was introduced to a small community college in Marietta, OH, more than 1,000 miles from his home.
“Orion Engineered Carbon has encouraged me, along with other employees, to reach for higher heights. By doing so, they have challenged us to learn more about what it is we do in the chemical field of carbon black,” explained Eave.
In the spring of 2016 Eave enrolled in the Online Process Technician program at WSCC. He admits earning his degree wasn’t easy, but he was motivated by his children and grandchildren. “There were many challenges in both my work and personal life in pursuing this degree. The countless hours on the computer which took time away from my family and also trying to balance working and school at the same time. Having to do 8 to 10 hours of homework and studies each week after a hard day’s work wasn’t easy,” he said.
Ultimately, he wanted his family to understand the importance of learning. “Academic pursuit is very important to me and I want my children and grandchildren to know that education is key if you desire to be among the successful in life,” he acknowledged.
Despite the struggles, there were no curve balls thrown at Eave. He explained that the online classes were fashioned in a manner that made processes easy to understand and that he was able to utilize resources provided by the college that gave him additional assistance when it was necessary. “What I love most is that the online schooling, it gives people like me, who don’t have the time to attend campus, a means to better themselves by way of studying at home and obtaining a degree.”
In May 2017 Eave, accompanied by his wife and two of his children, drove 1,100 miles from their home in Franklin, Louisiana to Marietta, OH to walk across the stage of Graham Auditorium to receive his long-awaited degree. “This was something I dreamed of accomplishing for a long time,” he confessed.
Eave is currently talking with Grambling University about finishing the degree he started more than 30 years ago.
For more than 45 years, Washington State Community College has fueled the community’s future through education. We work to make a positive impact by providing opportunities for growth. Whether you are a recent high school graduate or an adult student looking to enrich your life, we cultivate pathways to guide you toward future growth. Be inspired. Be WSCC. For more information about Washington State Community College, visit www.wscc.edu or call 740.374.8716.