Valedictorian Fulfills His College Dream with Exuberance and Excellence
Paul Ille seemed to have it all. A successful business executive, he is partner to the woman he calls “the love of my life,” is a devoted father to two “tweens” – and to newborn twins – and enjoys volunteering for community service. Yet, the lack of a college education left him feeling that something was missing from his life.
Now, Paul has achieved his academic goal to a level he says he could never have imagined years ago. The Woodland Park resident completed his associate’s degree in Liberal Arts/Psychology with a perfect 4.0 GPA, graduated with highest honors last December, and will serve as a valedictorian in the Class of 2021. He is also the recipient of the Outstanding Psychology Graduate Award and the Honors Program Distinguished Student Award.
It is a triumph for a man who had wanted to attend college after high school, but didn’t have the money or opportunity and who had been left behind for two grades in junior and high school due to what Paul calls an “unstable environment” during his teen years. He first worked as an auto mechanic, then entered the information technology field.
But he never relinquished his college dream, and in Fall 2017, Paul enrolled at PCCC. Convenience and cost influenced his college choice, but it was a visit to the campus that really convinced him. “After talking to people at PCCC, I sensed a casual, but challenging atmosphere that seemed to fit me.”
Eager to learn, Paul embraced his studies with a passion, attending night classes while working 50 to 60 hours a week as a director of sales and service for a software company. “I’ve had to balance school against work and family time which is challenging,” says Paul, “but I consider it an opportunity to show what I am capable of.”
He proved himself to be a high achiever and was invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and the Honors Program, which enabled him to pursue a more rigorous and enriched course of study.
A psychology major who has “always been fascinated with people and their inner workings,” Paul enjoyed all his psychology classes, but especially Theories of Personality where he wrote an extensive paper on Carl Jung. “He fascinates me in a deep and profound way,” Paul explained.
He considers the paper he wrote for his Critical Thinking course on the topic of Philip Zimbardo’s Lucifer Effect a personal victory. “I knew my opinion was not shared by the professor,” says Paul. “I give credit to Professor (Glenn) Klopfenstein for not taking my opinion personally and basing my grade on the merit of my work. He received an A.
Writing, literature, public speaking…Paul relished them all. “I would major in philosophy in a heartbeat,” he said. “If I have time in this life, I might.” Playing guitar for his music appreciation class was another memorable experience for the enthusiastic student.
He is impressed by and appreciative of the PCCC faculty, in particular, Professor Ed Mosley (Humanities) and Dr. Lonna Murphy (Psychology). “I remember them as being the most helpful, and it was fitting they began and ended my time at PCCC,” he says.
Now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, Paul still maintains a 4.0 GPA and has dreams of continuing his studies toward advanced degrees.
His vision for the future is “to help others achieve greatness” by means of clinical psychology and public speaking engagements. But the academic world maintains a hold on him. “I enjoy teaching and mentoring,” says Paul. “I will not write off the possibility of becoming a professor.”
Written by Linda Telesco