Adult Degree Grad

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When Robert Daley enrolled in Dominican’s Adult Degree Completion program, he knew that balancing school, a full-time job overseeing shelter operations for Catholic Charities, and a twice weekly commute from Santa Rosa would be a challenge.

But, when disaster struck, Robert found at Dominican a compassionate community that rallied around his family while continuing to cultivate his love of learning and support his desire to improve the lives of others.

“Dominican has been just what I wanted — and more,” he says. “I’m dedicated to changing my community— and I’m doing that now with the homeless program in Sonoma County — and Dominican is showing me how I can expand my work.”

Robert's decision to enroll at Dominican in his mid-40s was fueled by a desire to give back to his community. A high school dropout at 17, Robert wound up in Austin, TX, where he earned his GED in his mid-30s then became a traveling salesman. However, he longed to return to Sonoma County and to go to college, which his wife, Ginger, an USC graduate, kept encouraging.

Finally, after a series of job promotions at Catholic Charities, Robert decided to enroll at Santa Rosa Junior College, yet wanted more. He wanted a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree and sought out an adult degree completion program to achieve both in the School of Liberal Arts and Education.

Dominican’s ADC program was perfect for him and welcoming. He transferred to Dominican in Fall 2016, but in October of 2017, Robert was met an unexpected obstacle. The Tubbs Fire and its aftermath threatened his household and the health of his young son.

Robert’s son, Francis Dominic,  was born with a heart condition. The newborn’s months were marked by frequent trips to the hospital and the realization that, at the age of six months, Francis would need open heart surgery in the spring of 2017 at Stanford’s medical center.

That October, however, with Francis Dominic still recovering from surgery, the Daley family was forced to flee their Santa Rosa home as the Tubbs Fire moved dangerously close to their neighborhood. While the Daley home, located less than a mile from the ravaged Coffey Park neighborhood, was spared, the lingering smoke made it impossible to return home. Fearing the risk of infection with unknown toxins in the air, Francis Dominic’s doctor suggested that he not return to Santa Rosa until the air quality improved.

This is where the Dominican community stepped up. Robert recalled a campus-wide email sent by Paul Raccanello, VP for Student Affairs & Dean of Students, offering accommodation to those displaced by the fires. “I contacted Paul and he immediately arranged for us to move onto the campus – even providing us with meals,” Robert recalls. “It was just amazing.”

The Daley family remained on campus for a month, living next door to undergraduates in Edgehill Village. Robert was able to continue his studies almost uninterrupted.

“It felt like home and for a few weeks it was,” Robert says. “Staying here that month it really endeared me to everybody.”

Never once did Robert lose sight of his objective. He overcame family health issues, the awkwardness of studying in classrooms with students half his age, and the difficult commute to earn his BA in Humanities and Cultural Studies in December and begin working on his MA in Humanities.

This summer, Robert plans to work on his Master’s thesis examining the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the Unangan of Unalaska, Alaska. In the fall he will add working as a TA for Dr. Chase Clow, a faculty mentor whose dedication to teaching he admires, to his already busy schedule.

Robert’s reward is all that he has learned and experienced.

“Depth of thought. I used to have a lot of thoughts going in my head  about everything all the time, but now it’s about working on longer-term projects. It’s about having all of my classes and all my education merge. I am able to work things out that I was never able to do before. That’s really a gift for me.”

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