How persistence and mentorship helped this veteran and Excelsior grad succeed!

Donald Ham was not sure what the future would hold when he joined the navy.

Joining just to get a roof over our heads, enlisting gave me training and responsibilities which revealed strengths and abilities I did not know I had. After earning a commission as a naval officer via a program which didn’t require a degree, I was asked to be the educational services officer (ESO) for my command. As ESO, my job was to help others obtain an education, and how could I do that if I didn’t have one myself?

It was then that he decided to see what options were available. That’s when he found Excelsior.

Excelsior made getting my degree easy, the hard parts was the good stuff—challenging assignments and projects which broadened my aperture. More importantly, after a sudden change in orders and a move back to sea duty, Susan Wheeler, my advisor, reached out with a plan to help me complete my degree while being forward deployed. Excelsior had not forgotten me. Finally, after 20 years of service, I had a degree. At the urging of my family, I walked the stage in Albany in 2022; and I will never forget seeing their pride and joy in my accomplishment.

Donald’s story shows that you don’t have to go it alone. Mentors and peers at Excelsior will be there for you to celebrate your successes and support you through the tough stuff. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our upcoming Rope Team conversations, where you can connect with others and grow your network.

Before we go, here’s some advice from Donald for other veterans or any Excelsior student working towards their degree:

My life has been all about overcoming adversity; I’m here to help others do the same. KEEP GOING.

By Mary [uConnect]
Mary [uConnect] Customer Success Manager