Elwood Ott walks across the stage Friday morning during Haskell
Indian Nations Universitys commencement ceremony in the basketball
gym, he said he would feel a sense of pride.
a 29-year-old father whos been attending Haskell off
and on for more than 10 years.
began attending Haskell as a full-time student in 1999, but then
switched to working full time in 2001, so his wife could attend
his desire to get a degree persisted, and he went back.
took just a few classes here and there at first. He completed his
degree by taking 21 credit hours this spring. That was on top of
his other responsibilities, including his job as assistant varsity
and head junior varsity mens basketball coach, and a father
to his two children, Jordan, 7, and Isaiah, 12.
from Tulsa, Okla., and a member of the Otoe-Missouria tribe, Ott
is the first in his family to obtain a college degree. He said he
kept at it once he realized early on that a degree would be necessary
for career advancement. Later, he gained another motivation.
trying to show my kids the importance of it, he said. Im
just trying to pave the way forward.
with a bachelors degree in American Indian Studies, he has
sent out applications to graduate school. Wherever he lands, he
hopes to continue coaching.
feel like Im providing youth an opportunity to do something,
Ott said. Im helping to turn youth into, basically,
Juneau, head mens basketball coach and athletics director
at Haskell, said just about everyone on campus seems to know Ott.
said that no matter where Ott turned next, he was going to be successful.
Hes got a passion for basketball and a passion for people,
even though some people kid Ott that he started school with some
of his teachers, its a testament to his understanding of priorities
and a desire to succeed that drove him to finish.
lot of other people would have probably just given it up a long
time ago, Juneau said.
Cesare helped hire Ott to run the universitys store that sells
apparel and other items. It was one of many on-campus jobs that
helped pay for his education.
just dont know of anybody that dislikes Elwood, she
said Ott often asked about how she was doing and worried about her
well-being although he was juggling work, school and his
always put himself second and everybody else first, she said.
He took a little bit longer to get his degree, and I think
thats one of the reasons why.
repeatedly said he didnt think his story was much worth telling.
he thought about the past 10 years for a moment.
know, I do feel like I accomplished something, he said. I