At 72, DSU grad ready to help others


DOVER — When students receive their diplomas at Delaware State University today, one student will stand out from the crowd.

At 72 years old, Ronald Spriggs is about 50 years older than the rest of the graduates.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Mr. Spriggs, who will graduate with a degree in social work.

Ronald Spriggs, 72, will graduate today from Delaware State University with a degree in social work. He is joined by his wife Andrea in front of their funnel cake business, Blue Hen Concessions. (Delaware State News/Eleanor La Prade)

Ronald Spriggs, 72, will graduate today from Delaware State University with a degree in social work. He is joined by his wife Andrea in front of their funnel cake business, Blue Hen Concessions. (Delaware State News/Eleanor La Prade)

Before he enrolled at the university, he actually worked there for 32 years, where he was in charge of facilities management.

While he worked at Delaware State University, he took a few courses, but Mr. Spriggs said that after he had retired, he decided to go back to college.

Earning a degree was always on his bucket list, he said.

Mr. Spriggs had always worked in “support services,” he said.

“And I’d always wanted to be what I thought was professional — go to work in a suit and tie and that sort of thing.”

He considers his work important, but he felt like he could do more with a degree.

“My idea is to motivate from the bottom up instead of the top down,” he said.

“…My philosophy is you have to be the best at whatever you are wherever you are.”

Like most students, it took some time to get used to college.

“I was scared to death,” he said.

“The first day I was kind of shaking because I didn’t know what to expect.”

The first semester was rough, he remembered Saturday.

“I had to try to overcome my fear of technology and … getting used to kids and the kids getting used to me,” he said.

Four years later, he’s ready to graduate with a degree in social work and start doing what he loves.

“I’m looking so forward to helping people the way I know I can — motivating people the way I know I can and doing the things I know I’m best at,” Mr. Spriggs said.

He spent the day before commencement making funnel cakes. Throughout college, he’s runs his business, Blue Hen Concessions, with his wife Andrea.

“You can’t imagine what it was like,” he said.

“It was more than a challenge — physically, mentally. Being able to concentrate and that sort of thing. It’s a great testament to the fact that if you really want to do something, you can do it.”

Along the way, he also credits his wife for her support.

“She takes such good care of me. It’s unbelievable.”

He chose a degree in social work, he said, “because it encompasses the human part of our society.”

“You know, it’s really down-to-earth kind of stuff — people’s problems, helping solve their problems, helping people get through tragedy. And I hate to use the cliché, but helping people is what life’s all about.”

And Mr. Spriggs considers it a calling. He’s a good communicator, he said, and he represents himself and other people well.

“The bottom line is, where do I go from here?” he said.

“I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I went to school and got my degree. Now what?”

He found the answer when he was completing his practicum at Delaware Hospice.

“I always looked at Delaware Hospice as death and dying,” he said.

“…it’s quality of life. And that’s very important.”

He especially credits one woman for helping him, Sondra Satterfield, who was in charge of family support services there.

She hooked him on hospice, he said, and she taught him to use the intimidating technology.

“… she put herself at my level at my time with my needs, and brought me right up to where I was supposed to be and I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life with that,” he said.

He hopes to work part-time — or at least volunteer — at hospice now.

He said he wants to educate people about what’s available to them and help them with counseling.

“I would like to expose the quality of hospice services to the under-served communities,” Mr. Spriggs said.

“In other words, people don’t realize there a lot of services hospice provides for free.”

And college, he said, has been one of the most rewarding services of his life.

“… although there is a generation gap, kindness, respect and all of those things that we have in life, are always prevalent, and more so than I thought in younger people,” he said.

The students he’ll graduate with have a common sense, down-to-earth approach, he said, even when they have “all the book learning in the world.”

“…and a great percentage of the kids welcome a strong male positive influence,” he said.

And now, after four years, they call him “pop-pop.”

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