Retired NFL Player and 78-Year-Old Student Among UNA's December 2009 Graduates
Dec. 18, 2009
FLORENCE, Ala. – Just days after his election to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, former UNA star and retired NFL player Ronald McKinnon will walk the stage tonight to receive his college degree. Glenn French, a 78-year-old student who took a nearly 60-year detour from his UNA studies in the early 1950s, will join McKinnon as the first two graduates of the university’s new degree-completion program, offered through the UNA Department of Continuing Studies and Outreach.
“This new program is for adults whose college education has been interrupted through military service, family or other major life events,” said Dr. Kerry Gatlin, dean of the UNA College of Business, who advised French in his degree completion. “For some, this degree will benefit their careers, and for others, like Mr. French, it’s for personal fulfillment.”
The degree program, in general studies, offers courses on campus as well as online.
McKinnon, of Birmingham, was a four-year starter on the UNA football team from 1992 to 1995 before his career with the NFL, which included nine years with the Arizona Cardinals and one year with the New Orleans Saints. Four years ago, he established McKinnon Enterprises, through which he operates Decatur Door Company and a property rental management service.
“I think that once you start something, you’ve got to be able to finish,” McKinnon said of his degree completion. “When you have that degree, it makes you a better person in every aspect of life.”
For his accomplishments in NCAA Division II football, McKinnon has been elected to the Division II Football Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame and, most recently, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. He was a four-time, first-team All-GSC selection and one of just a handful of three-time consensus All-Americans in Division II history. He won the Harlon Hill Trophy in 1995 as NCAA Division II National Player of the Year, becoming the first – and so far the only – defensive player to win the award. He has also been named the GSC’s Player of the Quarter Century.
French, of Florence, had begun his UNA studies through the Army ROTC program in 1949 and was only three hours from completion in 1952, when he was assigned to Tokyo, Japan, during the Korean conflict.
“I never left UNA really,” French said. “For my own self-satisfaction, I was determined to someday, somehow finish my UNA degree.”
French, who had enrolled in several classes in the mid 1980s, called about UNA’s new degree-completion program last year after seeing an ad for it in the university’s Continuing Studies and Outreach newsletter.
French, a member of UNA’s original marching band, has led a successful business career of more than 50 years. He was with H.T. Ferguson Tom’s Sales Inc., a peanut company, for nearly 30 years, eventually becoming owner and president of the business. He has also worked with Hasler Postage Meters and Shoals Cellular Telephones, the first cellular telephone business in the Shoals area. He has most recently worked as an independent insurance agent.
For more information on the UNA degree-completion program, contact the Department of Continuing Studies and Outreach at 256-765-4862, 800-825-5862, ext. 4862, or www.una.edu/continuing-studies.