Last February, 55-year-old Matt Snodgrass suffered a heart attack. The next week, he was back in class pursuing his Associate's Degree in Accounting at East Central College.
“I had my mind set on accomplishing a goal,” he said. “I wasn’t going to let anything stop me – not even a heart attack.”
His educational journey started four years ago, when he made a major life decision. Snodgrass owns Master Auto Tech in Union. He’s been working on cars for nearly 37 years.
“I decided I wanted a career change,” he said. “I’ve been working on cars all my life. After two back surgeries, I knew it was time to do something different.”
He didn’t want to close his shop and just hope for the best. He wanted a plan, and he knew getting an education was his first step. Snodgrass had always enjoyed the bookkeeping part of owning a business. He figured a degree in accounting would be a natural fit, so he enrolled in part-time classes in Fall 2016.
“At first, I thought I would be the only one my age in my classes. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong,” he explained.
He soon felt comfort in sharing his college experience with so many other working adult learners.
“I’m usually still the oldest in the class,” he explained, “but there are a lot of people closer to my age than I originally thought there would be.”
Snodgrass found time management was his biggest struggle at first. However, like any student, he learned to adapt. “Dedicating the time necessary to follow through with all your assignments was a big step at first. As I got used to the college environment, things got much easier,” he said.
His dedication and determination helped him excel in the classroom. “When learning new material, Matt always researches additional information about the subject and then brings the information back to classroom to share with others,” said Lisa Hanneken, accounting instructor. “He has a relentless pursuit of knowledge and shows a tremendous love for learning.”
“My instructors have been great,” Snodgrass said. “They make things so clear and understandable. They have little tips and tricks that I would have never picked up on my own. They always answer my questions without hesitation.”
He’s been at it for more than three years, and now the finish line is in sight. Snodgrass is set to graduate in May 2020. After graduation, he hopes to find an office to set up his own accounting firm where he is looking forward to a more “relaxing” environment.
“I’m tired of breaking my back,” he said, “burning my hands, cutting my arms – I want to get away from the demanding physical aspects from my current profession.”
Along the way, he has had a lot of support – friends, family, fellow students and instructors. He’s also had some naysayers. After his heart attack, some even encouraged him to stop pursuing his dream altogether.
“I’m doing this for me,” Snodgrass explained. “I’m going to finish it no matter what. Heart attack. Back surgery. I’m not giving up.”
“Matt is an inspiration,” commented Hanneken. “He is one of those students every instructor loves to have in their classroom.”
After high school, Snodgrass admits he had no interest in getting a college degree. As he progressed through life, things started to change, and he knew his life needed to change. He hopes his story will inspire others to follow his path.
“If anyone out there isn’t happy with their life the way it's going – I say stop. Life is too short. Find something you really want to do and educate yourself in that area.”