After graduating as valedictorian at Viola High School in 1990, Cass Cherry envisioned going to medical school. He finished two semesters of college credit, but dropped out to enlist in the US Navy and serve a two-year tour.
Returning home to Viola after his service, he reenrolled in college, receiving his AAS in nursing in 1996.
Working as a medical department administrator, Cherry began working toward a bachelor’s degree in the John Brown University Degree Completion Program in 2002. Still living in Viola on his family farm, he worked all day and drove about 150 miles round trip to attend JBU classes in Harrison. “JBU was the best option I had for obtaining my bachelor’s degree without moving my family,” Cherry said. “There were no four-year universities within 100 miles of my home.
“My favorite part was that I could get my degree at night in a condensed format, work all day, and still maintain my family stability without moving closer to a four-year college,” Cherry said.
Upon graduation in 2004, Cherry used the skills he acquired in the Degree Completion Program in his management position. “I still use many aspects of the written communication that I learned at JBU, as well as the knowledge of how to interact with a variety of people,” Cherry said.
Nearly two decades after high school graduation, Cherry finally realized his goal of attending medical school.
“Without a bachelor’s degree and my work experience, I would have had no chance of getting into medical school,” Cherry said. “I was actually accepted into two schools; it was a great feeling to fulfill that long-term goal of mine. I thought it would never happen.”
Cherry is currently attending medical school at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and children. “The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine at LMU falls in line with what the Advance Program is about, in my mind,” Cherry said. “They look at the whole person and realize that each person is an individual, and sometimes they need the opportunity to show what they can do.”
And although he’s older than many of his medical school classmates, Cherry wouldn’t have it any other way. “Some people are ready when they’re 22,” he said. “I wasn’t ready until I was 38. And without my degree from JBU and some other factors, I might have given up on my dream.”
With short-term goals of riding a bicycle home to Arkansas over his next break and completing his medical studies, Cherry wants to practice in a rural area upon graduation.
“If not for the JBU Degree Completion Program, it would have been almost impossible for me to get to this point,” Cherry said. “All of the instructors I had were the best. I never felt more at home than I did at JBU.”