GCU Doctoral Learner, 72, Finds Something New to Conquer
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.