Wendy Howe is a mom, an Army veteran and a career professional at T. Rowe Price. And at 45, she’s adding another accomplishment to her list: college graduate.
Howe began pursuing her Bachelor’s of Business Administration at UCCS in 2009, when she was 35 years old.
She was rising up the ranks at T. Rowe Price, where she worked in retirement planning – yet she didn’t feel successful.
“There was always a sense of inadequacy that I had around the thought of, ‘I don’t have a degree,'” she said. “I just didn’t feel like I was enough. And school was my ‘enough’. Because education is a leveling field. Education is everything you need to get somewhere else.”
“And I was curious,” she added. “I wanted to see if I could do it.”
Howe grew up in small-town Pennsylvania before joining the Army at 17. Six years later, she had orders to deploy to Somalia, a husband on the way to Korea and an 18-month-old son – with no childcare.
“I realized I had to get out of the Army, because I didn’t know how we were going to make that work,” Howe said. “You can’t ask your parents to raise your son for you.”
Having left the military, Howe spent the next two years commuting nearly 150 miles a day from Fort Hood in Texas to work as a broker in Austin.
Though she didn’t have a degree, “The person who hired me took a chance on me,” she said, “because he was a veteran as well.”
It was a chance that paid off – Howe has worked in the investing industry ever since. And she has spent 10 of those years earning her degree, two classes at a time.
Discipline has been Howe’s driving force for the last decade. Her day starts at 5 a.m., when she goes for a morning run. She’s in the office by 7. She works through lunch, comes home to do homework, and then – only then – juggles the rest of life’s demands.
“People ask me, ‘Can’t you just…’ I tell them no!” Howe said.
“There’s no ‘just’. I don’t have a lot of time, and I’m going to spend it doing the best that I can. I’m never going to turn something in that’s ‘just’ good enough. I’m going to turn in something that I’m proud of.”
Her discipline has taken her far. Graduating summa cum laude, Howe is at the top of her class. But she couldn’t have done it without flexibility from her employer, T. Rowe Price, and from UCCS.
“When I started here, students were in the classroom,” she said. “There was no getting around that. There were very few options for night classes and there were virtually no classes hosted online. Bit by bit, I started to see it change, and now I’ve been able to take more hybrid classes, where some days you can work from home.”
“I did have to take some classes during the day, over the years,” she continued. “I had some great managers who supported me. Without T. Rowe doing that for me, I don’t know if I could have done it.”
That flexibility was critical for Howe, and she credits both her classes in business administration and her electives in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences with teaching her relevant skills that she will continue to leverage in her career.
“I’ve learned how to learn,” she said. “That’s what everything comes back to. Every time I was struggling with school – every time I’ve thought, ‘It’s been nine years and I’m still doing this?’ – I said to myself, ‘You know what? I’ve learned how to learn.'”
“If you want me to do something, I can figure out how to do it,” she continued. “I can figure out how to learn it, how to deliver it in the right shape and form, how to work with other people. And that is so applicable to life.”
But for all her professional success, the journey to earn her degree has been purely personal.
“I’m not going to get a promotion out of this,” Howe said. “It’s not going to necessarily lead to any other jobs. This is all for me.”
“If someone had told me to do it, my heart wouldn’t have been in it and I wouldn’t have wanted it as much,” she continued.
“But I wanted it. If you want it badly enough, you don’t give up. You don’t just try. If you try, you do. If you fail, you get back up and you try again. And if you put enough work into something, you’re going to succeed.”
Howe will walk across the Broadmoor World Arena stage this Friday to accept her diploma – just one semester before her son will graduate from Colorado State University with a degree in health sciences.
She plans to continue running, enjoying family life and growing her 16-year career at T. Rowe Price. And without classes, homework and group projects to fill up her evenings, she’s looking forward to – maybe – just a little more free time.
Howe will be one of more than 550 graduates participating in the 2019 fall commencement ceremony Dec. 20 at Broadmoor World Arena. A record-setting number of more than 1,000 students will be conferred degrees for the summer and fall terms during the 2 p.m. ceremony.