Larry Sutton knows that it’s never too late. He started at Fort Valley State University more than 30 years ago, and will complete his academic journey this Saturday. He’s one of more than 200 students who will receive their degree at FVSU’s Spring Commencement on May 11th. “I’m a Wildcat to the end,” Sutton said.
“I wanted to finish what I started,” Sutton said. And finish he will, as FVSU’s oldest graduate at 54 years old.
Sutton came to FVSU as a freshman on a football scholarship playing for FVSU coaching legend Douglas Porter. He was then and is still known by the moniker “Big Bear,” or just Bear for short. He was a part of the university’s 1982, 1983, and 1985 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) national championship teams.
His football scholarship ended before he could complete all of the classes he needed for graduation. He didn’t want to incur student debt, so he left school— with no direction, he said. Eventually, however, he was able to take what he learned at FVSU and use it to help him prosper in his career.
“FVSU has prepared me to make advancements at my current job that I otherwise would not have been able to accomplish,” Sutton said.
Later in life, friends in FVSU’s Agricultural Engineering Technology program told him about it. They talked to him about some of the tools they used for class, which they were still learning how to operate but which he was very familiar with. An instructor was impressed with Sutton’s knowledge and asked him to consider joining the program.
Since leaving FVSU, Sutton worked as a car salesman for more than twenty years. He attended Central Georgia Technical College, but still aspired to receive his undergraduate degree. In 2015 he made the decision to begin again. He worked the evening shift at Robins Air Force Base, leaving work after 11:00 p.m. but still coming to FVSU classes in the mornings, taking two classes a semester.
“I have had a lot of sleepless nights, working full time and attending school at the same time,” Sutton said.
Sutton said he has a support system with too many to name, but thanks Denise Ezell, FVSU Professor and advisor Dr. Archie Williams, Terri Hatcher, his mother and father Shirley and Herman Flood, sisters and brothers Latonya Lowe, Lynette Williams and Richard flood with his most recent success story. That support, along with his own tenacity, have guided his path toward earning his degree.
“Perseverance is a must,” he said.