In 1992, the same year coach Gene Stallings led the Alabama Crimson Tide to a national championship victory, a young football player named Thaddeus Garrett was finishing high school in Mobile with dreams of playing for the Tide. He was recruited, toured the facilities and met with Stallings, and everything seemed to be in order for him to play alongside champions for the next few years. Tragically, though, an off-the-field injury that summer crushed Thaddeus’ ankle and those football dreams along with it.
“I had to have screws placed in my left leg. It killed that career opportunity, and I ended up graduating with my bachelor’s from the University of Mobile.” Thaddeus said his talks with Stallings stuck with him through his life. “He talked about what it meant to be a champion, what it means to be part of The University of Alabama — always doing your best. In the back of my mind, I always remembered those promises I made to myself and to my parents to reach that goal of completing a degree from UA.”
Years later, after a successful career in the broadcast industry working in advertising, sales and digital marketing, and after going out on his own as a franchise owner of a relief and wellness company, Thaddeus decided the timing was right to make good on those promises to himself and his parents. “Even with a successful career, I still had that desire to accomplish earning a degree from UA. I found New College LifeTrack, and it was perfect.”
New College LifeTrack (NCLT) is a program allowing nontraditional, adult learners to earn a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences in Interdisciplinary Studies. Each student selects a depth study to suit their goals. Uniquely, the program also may award students limited college credit for prior learning and life experience. In Spring 2019, Thaddeus began completing his Bachelor of Arts with the depth study in Leadership Studies. The program’s flexibility and content appealed to him most. “It allowed me to continue my career and be with my family while I studied, and it offered the type of classes that fit my lifestyle and career goals so I could apply what I was learning directly to my professional life.”
Thaddeus said the coursework was especially helpful to him in his business. All the classes had direct applications to his work. One example of that was his class on the history of the family enterprise, which focused on family-started corporations like Mars, Hershey and Ford. “It allowed me to see how I can grow my current franchise business into a powerhouse. I took the practices, strategies and theories I was learning in class and applied them in real-time to my own business, and I was able to see instant success by doing that.”
NCLT pairs students with advisors that provide support throughout their time in the program, and Thaddeus spoke very highly of his advisor, Lisa Young, calling her “fabulous.” Of his advisors and professors, he said, “They have a desire for you to win and accomplish your goals. They understand the people in this program are not traditional students, and they meet you where you are and help you get to your goal of graduation.”
While Thaddeus’ classes were 100% online, he visited campus two times: for an in-person orientation and for a socially distanced graduation in Summer 2020. His wife, Norkesha (a tremendous support to him in reaching his goals) and his 8-year-old son, Myles, were in attendance to cheer him on. Thaddeus considered it important to leave this legacy for his son, so he was relieved that even during a pandemic his son was able to be physically present to see him graduate. Now a proud UA alumnus, he carries the champion spirit of the Capstone to all that he does as he continues his career. He looks forward to advancing his business and completing his book, pre-titled “Relentless Cultivation of You,” about his journey overcoming divorce, death, financial hardships and achieving the goal of earning his UA degree.
“I have cemented my place in the University’s history along with many other legendary people. More important is that I fulfilled my promises. God’s timing is everything. I finally got my ring — I am a champion.”
Published: September 6th, 2020