Paris family overcomes challenges to receive degrees at Troy University

Posted: Wednesday, 11 June 2008

PHENIX CITY, Ala. -- At one point in his life, a college degree was the farthest thing from Howard Paris’ mind.

On Saturday, however, he will share the Columbus Civic Center stage with his wife and two of their four children as they receive Troy University degrees.

The four family members will join 254 other graduates at 2 p.m. Saturday when the University’s Phenix City Campus conducts Spring commencement ceremonies. Alabama Sen. Ted Little will address the graduates.

Paris will graduate with honors with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, while his wife Sherby will earn her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. His son Eldrick, who works in TROY’s Phenix City Campus bookstore, and daughter Sherika, an employee in the campus’ records office, will both receive master’s degrees in business administration.

“There was a time in my life when I didn’t have hope or a future,” Paris said. “Now all of that has changed.”

Paris once thought of himself as a liability to his family and even considered walking away for their benefit. Paris battled drug addiction, had been incarcerated numerous times and even was homeless, living out of the family car with his wife and four children.

His plan before leaving his family was to plant them in a local church to ensure a supportive environment. However, instead of leaving, the church family had a life-changing impact on his life.

“The lifestyle we lead today is just totally different from what it was then,” Paris said. “My family and I put God first in everything we do.”

Paris has been a member of the maintenance staff at Chattahoochee Valley Community College for the past eight years, having first been hired by Dr. Richard Federinko, who now serves as senior vice chancellor for student affairs and administration at TROY.

Paris went on to earn an associate’s degree from Chattahoochee Valley before enrolling at TROY’s Phenix City Campus. Never dreaming he would graduate with honors, Paris admits that his first goal was just to pass his classes. And now, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, enrolling in TROY in the fall.

“The reality of it all really hasn’t set in just yet,” Paris said. “I’m very excited. I’m a proud husband, a proud parent and I’m proud of myself and what I have been able to accomplish. There was a time when I never would have dreamed of having a college degree. I just don’t know how to put into words how much this really means to me and my family.”