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GOSHEN -- John Gray knows how to keep busy.
Over the last three years, maintaining a full-time work schedule for most of it, he has helped his wife, Tammy, launch a driving school, battled throat cancer and entered the fray as a non-traditional student at Goshen College.
And the toughest part of all for the 45-year-old Jimtown man? Giving up cigarettes, doctor's orders, because of the throat malady.
"It was the hardest thing I ever did," he says, only half joking. "I still want one today."
All kidding aside, Gray, a damage appraiser at an insurance agency before resuming his studies, has done a lot since enrolling in Goshen College the fall of 2004. And following Sunday's graduation ceremony, he adds to his list of accomplishments with formal receipt of a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership.
"I feel kind of excited about it," he said. "I feel relieved that it's coming to an end."
Gray certainly isn't the only student to get a degree -- about 240, the vast majority of them traditional students, got their diplomas Sunday. But getting the piece of paper now, he accomplishes in three years what would typically take four, not even considering the strain of cancer treatment, work, learning how to study all over again and bucking nicotine.
"He was an excellent student, that's how he could do it," said Mary Moretto, director of Goshen College's Division of Adult and External Studies, the program Gray worked through.
Gray isn't one to fuss much over the whole thing. He initially enrolled in the Goshen College program to help him advance at the insurance agency, but kept at it even after he left the firm last November because he's not one to leave things undone.
"Once you say you're going to do something, you pretty much have to do it," he said. Plus, he wanted to set a good example for his two sons, John, 14, and Michael, 7.
He even downplays the impact cancer had on his effort. Gray, who joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Goshen High School in 1979, was diagnosed last July and kept on studying, even as he underwent radiation treatment, which seems to have done the trick, at least for now.
"The cancer didn't really stop me from finishing," he said. "That was just an obstacle."
Wife Tammy, though, won't have any of his modesty.
"Are you kidding? We're so proud of him," she said. "I'm beaming from one end to the other."
She notes the seemingly constant study, some of it via online courses, and occasional trips to Indiana State University at Terra Haute and Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion. Work at those two schools complemented his Goshen College coursework.
Looking forward, Gray says all the book-learning will help him manage the business end of things at EverSafe Driving School. That's the Goshen-based driving school Tammy Gray opened in January 2005, with a bit of help from her husband.
"Without the knowledge I picked up at Goshen College, I wouldn't be able to do this today," he said.
First, though, comes a little rest and relaxation.
"I'm not going to do a whole lot this summer," he said. "I'm going to mess around. I'm going to be doing more playing than working."