GCU Doctoral Learner, 72, Finds Something New to Conquer

April 17, 2013 / by / 10 Comments

By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau 

What’s an accomplished woman to do at the age of 72? 

Bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Successful careers in business and higher education. Church and community involvement. Even a lifetime achievement award — received nearly 20 years ago. 

Mary Trickel

That’s a quick summary of where Mary Trickel has been, and she’s not done. She was the self-described “class matriarch” at last week’s first-ever Atlanta residency for the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University, a weeklong gathering that attracted 56 doctoral learners — about two-thirds of whom, like her, are in their first year. 

Trickel has her sights set on completing her doctoral dissertation before her 75th birthday, and no one knocks off goals the way she does. 

“I was looking for something to challenge me,” says Trickel, of East Stroudsburg, Pa., who retired as an administrator from Middlesex County (N.J.) College in 2000 and has done consulting work since then. 

“I searched all over the country (for a doctoral program). I did not want a university that was strictly online. I wanted a place with a history. I’m also a person of faith, and I read about Grand Canyon.” 

Trickel is no average student. She began community college at the age of 34, and within five years she had her bachelor’s in accounting from Rutgers University and her MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. (Told you about that goals thing.) 

“I shared the dining-room table studying with my teenage daughters,” she says. 

After working in the specialty chemicals field, she was hired as vice president for finance and operations by Middlesex, where she had begun her studies, and spent 16 years there in administration. The school’s alumni association presented her with a lifetime achievement award in 1996. 

“I was able to use my business experience in an academic environment,” Trickel says. “That was a dream come true. … I was so blessed. I enjoyed my job as much on the last day as I did on the first day, and a lot of people can’t say that even after six months.” 

Family health concerns prompted her retirement, but she isn’t finished with the world of higher education. She’s passionate about the role played by community colleges, and she expects her dissertation will tackle the subject of “innovative leadership in the community college relative to 21st-century technology,” in her words. 

The quest for knowledge runs in her family, Trickel says. 

“I was brought up with a sense of valuing education,” she says. “My dad went to college during the Depression. He went without meals to get his engineering degree, but he never really spoke about his accomplishments. He had a 40-year career with General Motors.” 

She has been married for 52 years to her husband, Frank, 77. After enrolling in the doctoral program, she ordered a purple GCU sweatshirt in the mail and says she loves the University’s iconic cross-and-cactus logo. 

“I am your ambassador on the East Coast,” Trickel says. “The (residency) experience was excellent. It was meaningful to those attending. It was handled so well and it flowed so well. There was a synergy to it. 

“I probably went in with more anxiety than anyone, praying for the endurance it would take, and it was a dynamic experience.” 

Dr. Cynthia Bainbridge, director of the Office of Academic Research for the College of Doctoral Studies, was in Atlanta and met Trickel. 

“She was a delight to have at residency,” Bainbridge says. “She’s a model doctoral learner and an inspiration to the others.” 

Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or doug.carroll@gcu.edu.


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10 Responses
  1. Shelby Sorbye

    I have known Mary for just a few years. She is my neighbor (in her Florida residence) and I am honored to say she is a dear friend. I admire her ambition and energy. She is a unique “lady” and I feel so fortunate to call her my “friend”. I personally feel anyone who comes in contact with her will be enriched by her sincere love of everything. She has certainly enriched my life in the short period of time I have known her. I commend her in her doctorate studies and I wish her well…

    Apr.19.2013 at 11:41 am
  2. Linda Ellis

    What an inspiration you are!!! God is so good.

    Apr.19.2013 at 12:21 pm
  3. Rene A. Wright

    Hello being a seasoned learner at GCU at the Master’s level, reading this story Mrs. Trickel has given me inspiration. I want to thank you and may GOD continue to bless you in your endeavors.

    Apr.19.2013 at 6:57 pm
  4. Kathryn Meyer

    I congratulate you Ms Trickel, not only for your personal ambition and achievements but for paving the way for adult learners. Your story inspires me, a 56 year old nurse who is a GCU student working toward my lifetime goal of gaining my BSN. I believe that learning and challenging the mind keeps us young. Thank you

    Apr.20.2013 at 6:49 am
  5. The Vecchiones

    Mary Trickel is a wonder. She has the kind of personality you
    sometimes hear about but seldom encounter. She makes friends easiy and keeps them in her heart. Always eager to help you know she is your corner if you need her. We are East Strouidsburg neighbors of Mary and Frank and our life is richer becuse of them.——- Eleanor and Joe Vecchione.

    Apr.20.2013 at 3:55 pm
  6. Patricia West

    Way to go Mary! I have the pleasure of attending class with Mary, whose insights and abilities contribute greatly to the classroom atmosphere. I, for one, am glad to have a chance to learn alongside such an accomplished and astute woman!

    Apr.23.2013 at 10:54 pm
  7. Pam Hedberg

    I thank God for allowing Mary’s and my paths to cross. She is an inspiration and role model. Keep up the good work!

    Apr.24.2013 at 11:24 am
  8. Patricia Cardinale

    Mary has always been an inspiration to me. She is an amazing person to know.

    Apr.25.2013 at 2:31 pm
  9. Renee Johnson

    I read this story with personal interest because Mary Trickel is someone is similar to me. First, she is 10 years older than me but even 62 is not the traditional age for doctoral students. Second, like me, she enrolled in the doctoral program after retirement to find something “meaningful” to do. We both are Christian woman and could have found lots of things for which to volunteer. She attended Rutgers University and I did, too (however I left ABD). I also looked at number of doctoral programs before enrolling at GCU. I’m happy that I did and I truly admire Mrs. Trickel. She is an inspiration, especially for those of us who have had successful careers and are not satisfied with just being retired. The intellectual and social interactions created by our involvement with GCU keeps us viable as people and as am example for our families and community. God Bless.

    May.11.2013 at 11:13 am
  10. Denise D.Wyyn-Boyd

    I thought I was a living breathing miracle. Well, isn’t it just like God to give us another one? I am thrilled to see such a wonderful story about Mary Trickel. I am going to try again to return and finish my TESOL program. Thanks for the confidence. May the Lord Jesus Bless you real real good!!!!

    Mar.26.2014 at 1:56 pm
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