School’s back in session for successful business owner
Lee Langley seemingly has his hands full as a father of two who owns four businesses in two states. But the 39-year-old Greenville native has decided to heap even more onto his plate by embarking on the biggest challenge of his life – returning to school after a 20-year absence.
“I regretted not enrolling at Clemson when I was accepted out of high school. And not having my degree is something I struggled with ever since,” said Langley. “Besides, how can I expect to convince my son and daughter to attend college, if I hadn’t.”
For Langley, whose wife, Carly, and their two children, Connor, 2, and Gracen, 8 months, reside in Nashville where he owns two swimming pool businesses, the decision to earn a degree wasn’t financially driven. His Nashville businesses, combined with a construction company and another pool business he owns in Greenville provide a good income for his family. The decision that has him commuting to Clemson was more about unfinished business.
“I’ve attended Clemson football games all my life, even after I moved to Nashville. When I came back to campus for those games, it felt like home and I knew I wasn’t finished here,” he said. “This journey has been difficult on many levels, but I don’t regret having returned to school.”
Langley opted for Greenville Tech after graduating from high school in 1996. He was generating a good income at the time from a pool business he started at age 18, and didn’t see a financial need to commit to four years of college.
But in January of 2016, he decided to enroll at Clemson to fulfill a promise he made to himself.
“I didn’t want to have regrets later in life, and although I have a lot of irons in the fire in other aspects of my life, I decided it was going to be now or never.”
Langley’s return to the classroom didn’t come without sacrifice and difficulty. Aside from having to manage his businesses from afar and being away from his family, reacclimating to school was a challenge.
“In addition to the technology adjustments, I have ADHD which seriously affects my ability to learn. Because of that I have to study long and hard. I studied five days for the first test I took and received a D,” he said. “I was so devastated with the grade that I almost quit school right there, but my professor talked me out of it.”
After realizing a traditional classroom wasn’t the optimal setting for him to take tests, it was recommended he try the Academic Success Center’s test proctoring services.
“I ended up getting an A in that biology class, and I’ve been using the Test Proctoring Center ever since,” he said.
Langley struggled with settling on a major, but he said Carter McElveen, assistant marketing professor, made his decision easier.
“Taking her class changed my attitude about school,” he said. “Her style of teaching really clicked with me and made marketing something I wanted to learn more about. I decided to major in marketing in large part because of her. But what’s interesting, it seems every semester I come across a class and professor that results in ideas that help me better run my businesses.”
Though good grades still don’t come easily for Langley, he said being in a 21st century classroom isn’t as foreign as it was when he started at Clemson more than a year ago.
“The learning methods today are so different from when I came out of high school,” Langley said. “And then there’s the age difference. Eighteen-year-olds don’t naturally hang out and study with 39-year-olds, so I’m pretty much on my own when it comes to preparing for tests.”
Langley is hoping to graduate from the College of Business in spring of 2018 and though the road getting there hasn’t been easy, he has achieved one of the goals he set for himself by making the dean’s list last fall.
“This journey was never about career advancement and monetary gain, it was about a commitment I made to myself and to my children. Hopefully, when the time comes for them to attend college, their journey won’t be as complicated as mine. And when I finish, the regrets I had will be a thing of the past.”
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