Proud father, honors student inspired by daughters to return to college

December 8, 2016

Going back to school later in life is daunting for many people. In Gerald Lacey’s case, he had two great examples to follow.

Lacey’s daughters, Ashley and De Breah, inspired him to enroll at Tallahassee Community College with their own collegiate successes.

“My daughters have set the standard for me and future generations in my family in education,” said Lacey. “They have given me the drive and encouragement to get my business degree and become a successful entrepreneur.”

Ashley attended TCC and transferred to Florida A & M University, where she later earned a Bachelor of Science in allied health science with a pre-concentration in occupational therapy. De Breah is a third-year pharmacy student at FAMU.

Their academic and personal growth reminded Lacey of something he long felt was missing in his life. A logistics and distribution specialist, the native of Leesburg, Florida, found himself homeless for eight months and unemployed for a few years after the recession forced him to close his businesses.

“I was over-qualified for minimum-wage jobs but I did not have a degree, so I would always find myself staring at a glass ceiling when it came down to being promoted,” he said.

Lacey made the decision to enroll at TCC on New Year’s Eve of 2014. He chose TCC in part because of its reputation and the TCC2FAMU transfer program, but also because of his eldest daughter Ashley’s recommendation.

But simply going back to school was not enough for Lacey. Following the recommendation of English professor Cathryn Meyer and with the assistance of humanities professor Robert Fleischmann, the returning student applied for the TCC Honors Program—and was accepted.

“Even though there is a lot of work involved with being in the program, I am already experiencing some of the great rewards of being inducted,” Lacey said, adding that the program’s coursework challenges him to maintain a strong work ethic as a student.

That work ethic paid off as Lacey earned a full academic scholarship through the Honors Program, having grown into a college student with a perfect grade point average after graduating high school in 1988 with a 1.8 GPA.

Along with Meyer and Fleischmann, Lacey cited Susan Wessner as a professor who has positively impacted his experience at the College thanks to her diligent work tutoring him in mathematics.

Fleischmann, director of the TCC Honors Program, said that in spite of the hardship Lacey has faced, he continues to grow and thrive while maintaining a positive, “can-do” attitude.

“Nothing seems to faze him,” Fleischmann said. “Gerald wears a smile on his face every day and is ready to meet any challenge with focus and drive.”

After completing his Associate in Arts degree, Lacey has his sights on attending the FAMU School of Business and Industry and eventually earning a doctoral degree at the Harvard Business School.

Lacey advised those considering going back to school later in life to take the leap.

“When I made the decision to attend college for the first time at 45, it was a little scary,” he said. “However, it has turned out to be the best decision that I could have ever made for me and my family.”