(Editor’s Note: As Commencement nears, WVU Today will occasionally feature some of the University’s most dedicated graduates. Here is the story of one of those outstanding students.)


As he scans the crowd in the West Virginia University Coliseum at commencement, John Landis will be looking for two faces.

When he turns his tassel on Saturday (May 14) Landis will have an engineering degree. He’ll also have a job in the petroleum and natural gas industry.

And his 18-month-old son, Ethan, will have a dad who took risks to make his family’s life better.

“They’re my life,” he said of his son and his wife. “They’re the reason I’ve done this, other than for myself and for my goals. I want to be a good husband and a good father and keep providing for my family. They’re really who I look for.

“I want my son to be able to say, ‘My dad finished his degree.’”

For information on WVU's May Commencement, go to http://commencement.wvu.edu/

To see live webcasts of each commencement ceremony, go to http://commencement.wvu.edu/webcasts

To read about other outstanding students who are graduating this May, go to Meet the Graduates.

Landis, 33, of Morgantown, went to college for a few years after high school. But he didn’t graduate.

Life went on as he became an electrician and married Megan.

One day, they talked about his dream to become an engineer.

“I’d always wanted to be an engineer, and so she told me to do it; go back to school,” he said. “So I went back to school. I always wanted to do something more because I knew I was smart enough to get a degree.”

Click below to hear WVU student John Landis describe the value of his education and the sacrifices his family made to achieve it.

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They discussed the idea for a couple weeks, but since it was near the beginning of the semester, they had to decide quickly. So they thought, prayed, made the decision, sent in paperwork and saw an adviser. And he was in.

He began with calculus and chemistry.

“I was telling my wife, ‘I don’t even know if I can do this,’” he said. “I thought I’d actually have to quit.”

But he didn’t. He talked with friends who were engineers. He went to the study sessions his college offered. He took this assistance that he says he couldn’t have done without.

“I got through it,” he said. “I passed every class.”

He did more than pass. He served as the vice president of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, was a member of the American Association of Drilling Engineers and served an internship with the U.S. Department of Energy in which he ran simulations of carbon dioxide sequestration.

He tried to be a model student, even if he wasn’t sure anyone paid attention. He worked hard to be on time and turn in work early. In total, he didn’t miss more than five or six classes and then only because either he or Ethan was sick.

After graduation, his family will have a cookout, take a breath, and go on vacation to Florida before he starts his job as a petroleum and natural gas engineer with the Energy Corporation of America in Charleston, W.Va.

His biggest sacrifice for his education was time. The time he would have spent with this family and the time he could have devoted to a full-time job later in is college career.

“He worked all through most of being in school,” Megan said. “One semester he worked 50 hours a week and took a full load of classes.”

“Having a child threw an extra iron in the fire,” she said.

Landis said they hadn’t known what they were in for with a baby and his college education.

“It all happened at once,” he said of his senior year and his child. “There was more work involved in my classes, and there were more projects due, more presentations due, and then you were getting less sleep and changing diapers all the time. It was harder. It was a lot harder.”

The sacrifice wasn’t just on his part. He said Megan sacrificed her evenings to take care of Ethan while he studied.

They both say that no matter the sacrifice, Landis’ education was worth it.

“We’re definitely glad he did it, and I think even though looking back and knowing all the hardships that we went through and the sacrifices, we still would have made the same decision,” Megan said.

Landis and his wife are both excited in the days leading to commencement for their accomplishment and the fact that he is the first in his immediate family to graduate from college.

He would encourage anyone considering going back to school to stop just thinking about it.

“The value of education is just unbelievable,” he said. “Everyone should definitely get a degree.

“Don’t even think about it anymore. Just sign up and do it. It may take sacrificing income; it may take sacrificing free time. But it’s worth it. I’m glad I did it.”

By Diana Mazzella
University Relations/News



CONTACT: University Relations/News

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