Like so many Bethel alums, Barry Michael planned to graduate from college on a “typical” timeline. In fact, after finishing high school in 1979, the Jackson native went straight on to Memphis State University. But a year-and-a-half into his traditional college experience, he decided to apply for a job at the Jackson Police Department, and was hired. That’s when Barry dropped out of college to devote his life to law enforcement.
It might be typical to say he “never looked back” as he rose through the ranks, ultimately earning the title of Deputy Chief of Police. But that wasn’t the case with Barry.
“Even 34 years later,” he says, “I kept telling myself that I needed to finish my degree because my mom and dad wanted me to.”
As fate would have it, in June 2010, Barry attended a week-long law-enforcement seminar in Jackson, and it was there he ran into Ray Farris. Ray was working for the state, but “trying to help get Bethel’s new online Criminal Justice program off the ground,” Barry recalls. “I just happened to mention to him that I’d always wanted to go back to school, but my work schedule just didn’t allow it. And Ray said, ‘Brother, I’ve got something for you right here.’”
Ray told him that Bethel was starting its very first group of online Criminal Justice students. The new online format, he said, would allow Barry to juggle his personal, professional, and academic responsibilities. Ray’s enthusiasm was contagious. Barry enrolled. And just 17 months later, in December of 2011, Barry graduated with that first cohort group.
His mother proudly watched him cross the stage to receive his long-awaited degree, but couldn’t refrain from joking, “‘It took you long enough!’”
Barry responded, “I told you that I’d get my degree – I just didn’t tell you how long it’d take!” Continue reading