The world was a much different place 28 years ago and as Master Sgt. Christopher Ansley ’22 would tell you, he was a much different person back then. But through hard work and a never-say-die attitude, Ansley can now say he is a Methodist University graduate.
Although he grew up in Roanoke Rapids, Ansley considers Fayetteville home. After high school in 1994, Ansley decided to move to Fayetteville to live with his father George Ansley, who served in the Marine Corps at the time.
“I had no intention of going to college after high school,” Ansley said. “But at the time, my father was going to night school at then Methodist College. He took that opportunity to encourage me to go to Methodist at night, too.”
Soon after, Ansley decided to step foot on campus as a freshman in the fall of 1994, originally striving for a Psychology degree. Ansley’s father later earned his Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 1995.
But Ansley’s life would take a sharp turn in 1998 as his father passed away from lung cancer. Ansley continued to take classes at Methodist before joining the Army National Guard in 2000. A year later, the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, prompting him to go active duty. He would later deploy to Iraq on two separate tours in support of the country’s liberation.
“I went active duty with the intent of only spending three years in the Army and then returning to my education. But obviously it turned into a lot more than that,” Ansley said.
In the midst of his commitment to serving our country, Ansley did not give up on his education. In 2012, he returned to Fort Bragg and picked up some online classes at Methodist University. He was slated to finish his degree in 2014, but he faced another hurdle – Ansley was called to Fort Polk, La.
A few years later, Ansley moved to Scranton, Pa., where he currently works as a senior military science instructor for the ROTC.
But in 2021, Ansley had enough – he was ready to earn a diploma before retiring from the U.S. Army. Ansley reached out to staff from the Methodist University’s Fort Bragg Campus to discuss how he could finish his classes while continuing his work in Scranton.
“It was a collective effort. But the good news is many of the actions we had to take to help Christopher were already in place at the University,” said Billy Buckner, director of Military Programs and Workforce Training. “We just needed to determine which path would best suit him. At Methodist, being a military-friendly University is a lot more than a slogan. We back it up with our deeds.”
Ansley shared the same sentiment, saying the Fort Bragg campus’ assistance was life altering.
“There was a point where I was thinking there was no way I would be able to finish my degree,” Ansley added. “But Billy Buckner and the staff encouraged me to keep fighting. They worked with everyone at Methodist to find out which classes I needed. They even helped me find VA tuition assistance for my classes.”
A few semesters and six online classes later, Ansley completed all of the work needed for a Sociology degree.
On May 7, Ansley’s determination was finally recognized during Methodist University’s 59th annual Spring Commencement at Segra Stadium. Not only did he receive his degree on stage, but Ansley’s younger daughter had an opportunity to hood him during the commencement’s hooding ceremony. Ironically, it was a celebration that almost never happened.
“Originally, I didn’t want to go to the commencement,” Ansley said. “But then I thought about it and realized I’ve been working towards this for 28 years. I wanted to be able to celebrate this moment with my family.”
For Ansley, this moment would not be possible without his wife and five children.
“My kids are my inspiration. I keep telling them to never give up and to strive to be the best you can be,” Ansley said. “My kids want to go to college. But I realized how can I convince them to keep sticking with their goals if I don’t finish one myself? I wanted to show that no matter how much you’re struggling, you can accomplish things.”
As for what’s next, Ansley will retire from the military later this year. Afterwards, he hopes to utilize his degree by becoming a school guidance counselor.
MU’s Fort Bragg campus would tell you Ansley’s success story serves as a perfect example of never giving up on your dreams.
Buckner added, “We could not be prouder of Christopher and his family. He is a true testament to perseverance, commitment to education, and accomplishing the mission – which we pride ourselves in every day as soldiers.”
28 years later, Ansley’s life has come full circle. From attending MU in 1994 to earning a well-deserved diploma in 2022, he now shares the title of “Methodist alumnus” with his late father, George.
Ansley said, “In my military career, I intentionally went to the Army instead of the Marines so people couldn’t say I followed my dad’s footsteps. But now, this is something I can say I’m proud to follow my dad in. I know he really wanted to see me graduate before he passed away, but it means a lot to me that I’m earning a degree from the same university as him. It’s something I get to carry with me the rest of my life.”