For the past year, 38 year-old Jerry “Skeeter” Thompson hopped in his car twice a week and drove 80 miles roundtrip from his home in Tulare, CA to Brandman’s campus located at NAS Lemoore. “The smell of the jet fuel in the hot air took me back to my days serving on an aircraft carrier.” But the 10-year U.S. Navy veteran didn't make the trip to stroll down memory lane. Instead, he made it in order to complete his master’s degree in organizational leadership that he hopes will eventually lead to a job at Disneyland.“The dream job, the goal, has been to work for the mouse,” said Thompson. “I want to work for the Disney Institute and really make a difference in the world.”
It took all of one minute to figure out Skeeter has the personality to work for the mouse. He opened his commencement address by singing “I Have a Golden Ticket” from the movie, Willy Wonka and the Charlie Factory. The metaphor resonated with his fellow graduates and the 200+ guests. His education has given him a golden ticket for future success.
Today, Skeeter returned to where he was stationed for 6 ½ years to receive that master’s degree. He was one of 31 Brandman graduates who took part in a grand graduation ceremony at NAS Lemoore. “It’s been a non-stop, I’d call it a roller coaster, but roller coasters are fun sometimes... it’s been a journey, I’d tell you that much.”
This is Skeeter’s second Brandman University graduation. Back in May of 2013, he received a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from Brandman’s Visalia campus. He used the leadership and business courses he took while in the Navy and applied them to his undergraduate work. “I started in January of 2011 and worked extremely hard to finish my bachelor’s in just over 2 years,” said Skeeter. “A lot of the classes we took in the military rolled over pretty well to Brandman.” Those types of benefits played into his decision to “hit the road” and begin his graduate degree in organizational leadership at the Lemoore campus due to the flexibility provided to the military. “They cater to the military at Lemoore by waiving a lot of electives, therefore, we [military] can get the degree completed quicker and for less money.”
However, just before starting his graduate studies, Skeeter learned a valuable lesson one afternoon while on a job interview. “When that interview ended they told me I was too self-promoting and too arrogant. I immediately decided that everything I wanted to accomplish in my graduate level work would have to have the encompassing theme of humility.”
Skeeter learned humility, along with dedication, on those long journeys to and from Lemoore after a long day of work. Twice a week, he would start his day at 7:00am as a manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Visalia. “I would leave work around 4:00pm, head home quickly, drive to Lemoore, sit in class until 9:30pm and then drive another hour home. You really get a chance to digest the course work and your thoughts.”
Here it is a year later, and Skeeter drove that point home to his classmates who he was privileged enough to address during commencement ceremonies. Armed with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Brandman, and a tad more humility, Skeeter has plans on making one last long car trip, which he hopes is permanent, to Southern California in pursuit of employment at Disneyland.