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AU student receives degree at age 71

Story By: Brigitte Coles



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  Original Published: 8/6/2014

Ashland University MBA Student Receives Degree at Age 71. The old adage that “you are never too old” rings true for Patricia Kulcsar-Rhoads, who at the age of 71 received her Master of Business Administration degree with a specialization in human resources along with a Six Sigma Green Belt Certification from Ashland University in May of this year.

For her, this degree culminated a 52-year journey that she says was “like going from start to the moon and back.” Kulcsar-Rhoads, a resident of Seven Hills, Ohio, has been involved with Ashland University for many years and received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from AU in 2000.

“I really fell in love with Ashland University and decided to enroll. Little did I know it would be the ride of a lifetime,” she said. Following her undergraduate degree, Kulcsar-Rhoads was working as a human resources director when the recession hit and she was let go from that position.

“I floundered. Not many jobs, worked for several temp agencies and decided to further my ‘lust’ – yes, that is the word for knowledge so I went after my MBA,” she recalled. “My mantra has always been to make a difference in the world and obtaining an MBA was a lifelong goal.” Kulcsar-Rhoads said that both of her daughters, Julie and Alice Kulcsar, and her son, Joe Kulcsar, were students at Ashland University when she was taking classes.

“At one point, I even had a class with my daughter, Alice, which was awkward though for both of us,” she said. She said that taking classes taught by professors young enough to be her children and studying alongside determined classmates was an inspiration for her.

“How could I give up and say, ‘It was too hard and quit.’ Yes, I thought about it,” she said. “But when I experienced the determination and fortitude of my classmates who had family obligations, jobs and came into class without having time to grab something to eat -- they were my inspiration.”

Along the way, Kulcsar-Rhoads said she experienced some very good professors, many of whom had worked in the fields they were teaching.

“Some were ‘teachers’ reaching out to those students who were struggling and they made sure the students understood the material,” she said. “Some were pushing us so hard I would lose my breath. Many nights I struggled with the program. But my teammates- classmates encouraged me along the way as I did them.”

When asked if she enjoyed taking classes with the younger students, Kulcsar- Rhoads said they were her classmates.

“We were all on the same road with the same struggles. Each helping the other no matter what our positions in life -- age was never an issue,” she said. “They were my inspiration and for some I was theirs. My advice to them was never look at how far you must go but rather look at how far you have come.”

Kulcsar-Rhoads said she believes that learning is never ending.

“From everyone we meet we learn and give something in return. Age may affect the body but the desire to learn more, to grasp more, to become more is never a matter of age but rather a matter of desire and will power,” she said.

Following her MBA graduation, Kulcsar-Rhoads began writing an article for publication. Additionally, she is volunteering at Cleveland Head Start.

“Who knows where I will be a year from now,” she said. “Hopefully, all of my past experiences and knowledge will become an inspiration to the very young that I hope to influence.”

Born in New Orleans and raised in Bay St. Louis, Miss., Kulcsar-Rhoads graduated from St. Joseph’s Academy in 1960 and wanted to see more of the world. This led her to enter nursing training in New Orleans.

“I flunked out, got a job, saved money and attended what was then known as Pearl River Jr. College and graduated with an associate of arts degree,” she recalled. “I was offered two roads to embark upon -- a Cancer Research Grant at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and a scholarship at Mississippi Southern in Drama. My father would not sign the student loan papers, so I took the grant and became cytotechnologist board eligible but never took my board exams.”

She ended up in Michigan and worked as a teacher’s aide. With the encouragement of the superintendent of Kinde Schools, she became a teacher under Michigan’s then special certification. As long as she took a specified number of education classes, she could teach.

From Central Michigan to Eastern Michigan University to Bowling Green, she took continuing education classes at off-site campuses.

“I taught in Michigan before moving into Ohio. Once here I taught in Sandusky, Toledo and Vermilion. Again, I ran out of money to continue my education. So I worked, married and raised three children. I needed money so I opened up an in-home academic day care,” she said.

Then she took more classes at Cleveland State and Lorain Community College focusing on early childhood education.

“I still wanted to give back to the community so I obtained certification in conflict resolution and was certified by the Cleveland Mediation Center,” she said.

She also received additional training from Cleveland State University obtaining a labor relations certification by the Labor Management Center in 2003.

“The time came to give up diapering so I sold the daycare and became a human resources coordinator,” she said. “I loved it. That is when I pursued a BSBA degree from Ashland University.”

Kulcsar-Rhoads also served as president of the Ashland University Parents Association and was part of AU’s VISTA program for recruiting. In those roles, she worked closely with then AU President Dr. G. William Benz. Kulcsar-Rhoads also published two writings -- “And the Children Cried” and “Lest We Forget” -- in the Ashland “Passage” Anthology in 2000. Additionally, she published “The Hill” in 2005 in the publication, “The Best Poems and Poets of 2005.” All of these works were about the Holocaust.

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