Decades after his first college experience, student earns degree

By University Communications
December 17, 2014
Dave Lytle accepts his UW-Stout diploma Saturday, Dec. 13, from Abel Adekola, dean of the College of Management

Photo: Dave Lytle accepts his UW-Stout diploma

David Lytle was easy to pick out among the youthful graduates Saturday, Dec. 13, who picked up degrees in the afternoon commencement ceremony at University of Wisconsin-Stout.  At 56, he was old enough to be the father of most of the other graduates, and his short-cropped hair tended toward white.

But few graduates probably will appreciate their diploma as much as Lytle. How Lytle got that Bachelor of Science in management, with a minor in business administration, is an inspiring story of determination, hard work and family support.

Lytle, of Madison, started at UW-Stout in 1976 as an industrial education major, but things started to go badly in 1978. It was a combination of questioning whether he wanted to be a teacher and getting caught up in the then-party atmosphere fueled by an 18-year-old drinking age.

He took a semester off, worked in Menomonie and switched to a business major. That cost him some credits and added to the time to graduation, so Lytle decided in 1981 to return to Madison to work. He also said UW-Stout indicated that his grades “had fallen below acceptable levels.”

“I was lucky in many ways after I left UW-Stout, with my tail between my legs, in 1981,” Lytle said. “One was that I listened and truly became a life-long learner, teaching myself computers and software programs as necessary. Many forget that in 1981 the personal computer revolution hadn’t started.”

Lytle also said he was lucky to find work in the printing industry in the Madison area for 33 years; he now works in the printing department at American Family Insurance in Madison.

The itch to get back to school started during a continuing education class, he said, when an instructor asked, “What is your greatest regret of your adult life?”

“I said that my greatest regret was not taking advantage of the opportunities I had when I was younger and going to college,” Lytle said. “That started me thinking on and off for about a year about returning to school.”

He has seen television advertisements about taking online courses to complete a degree, which led to a call to UW-Extension. Lytle then contacted UW-Stout Online and decided on the online Bachelor of Science in management degree program.

But there was that little matter of the bad grades back in 1981.

“I was readmitted on probation and granted academic forgiveness for my past bad grades since it had been over five years since I left,” Lytle said. “Thank you to whoever came up with the idea for academic forgiveness.”

It wasn’t easy blending a new academic career, family life and work, Lytle said. He took six credits every semester, occasional Winterm classes and classes every summer, except one.

“I have found balancing work and study hard at times, but my children were in high school when I started at UW-Stout four years ago, which makes things much easier,” he said. “My wonderful wife of 22 years has been very supportive.”

Wife ‘very proud’ of him  

Colleen Lytle, a UW-Madison graduate in home economics who accompanied her husband to UW-Stout Saturday, said that when David started back at UW-Stout she would have to tell their two sons, Matthew and Patrick “to be quiet because dad was studying.”

“I’m very proud of him,” Colleen Lytle said of her husband. “It is hard to go back to school at any age, and then to finish.”

David Lytle said that being employed while he was going to school helped because “I could directly see how the class material would be of use in a workplace.”

Lytle said he started this new journey “for myself with no thought of a new job or promotion.”

However, he said, “I see the value of it constantly in my everyday life” because of the relevance of the course material to the workplace.

Plus, he said, “My workplace keeps reorganizing and eliminating positions, so having the degree will be a good thing. I am excited and humbled at the same time.”

Lytle said he believed that the quality of the education he got through UW-Stout’s distance education program was equal to a classroom experience. “I don’t think we missed anything,” he said.

One more thing: That student who was asked not to return to UW-Stout in 1981 not only graduated Saturday, he graduated Magna Cum Laude.

More information on UW-Stout Online opportunities can be found at  

UW-Stout, Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, has about 9,400 students in 45 undergraduate majors and 23 graduate majors, including one doctoral degree. UW-Stout, established in 1891, prides itself on the success of its students in the workplace, with a graduate employment rate at or above 97 percent for recent graduates. The university was awarded the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2001.