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Now a college grad, man hopes his story will inspire others

Like many others, Derwin Leigh Sr. of South Boston saw his career vanish after the economic downturn beginning in 2008.

Leigh, a 55-year-old husband and father of three college graduates — Catherine, Derwin Jr. and Deelynn — found a new career after returning to school and receiving a Bachelors in Business of Administration from Averett University.

The story behind Leigh’s return to school is familiar.

The 1976 Halifax County High School graduate had worked in management for RTP for 24 years before finding himself out of work.

“They downsized in 2009, and that’s what prompted me to go back to school,” explained Leigh.

“I was in management, and during my job searches, I found they all wanted a bachelor’s degree, and I didn’t have one. I decided to go back to college, and I saw a graduate professional studies program at Averett.

“It’s a program set up where you can be a working adult and study at the same time,” added Leigh, who worked two different jobs while studying for his bachelor’s degree.

Leigh said he knew he needed to go back to college and get the necessary skills to handle the real world technology demanded by today’s employers.

He was a little skeptical at first but told himself he could do it, even at his age.

“I was comfortable with going back to school,” noted Leigh, who had to find time to study and work, one of the bigger challenges he faced.

“I sort of regret I didn’t do it earlier,” he explained.

“Another consideration was my family.  They had gone through college and finished it. I thought I’d gotten them through college so now I can go back. They encouraged me to go, too.”

DeeLynn graduated from George Mason and worked at Liberty University where she completed her masters in Christian education and now works for Averett University in Richmond as an academic advisor.

Derwin Jr., a graduate of VCU, lives in Durham and works in the management program of Sherwin-Williams.

Derwin Sr. currently is an assistant manager at Dollar General in Halifax, and he hopes telling his story will encourage others to continue with their education. 

“That’s important in today’s society,” concluded Leigh. “Faith and education are two things nobody can take away from you.”