JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
The above quote from John Lennon accurately sums up how a father and daughter, both graduates of Belfry High School, ended up walking together to receive their diplomas from Western Kentucky University.
Rick Stiltner graduated from Belfry in 1980 with no clear career path in mind. He took some general college classes at Southern West Virginia Community College, but, as often happens, he quit school in favor of a “real job” as a purchasing agent in Western Kentucky.
“I was glad to get a job like that with just a high school diploma,” Stiltner said. “But I was young, in my early 20s, and got homesick, so I moved back.”
Rick worked locally as a mechanic and met and married a local girl, Lynn. The couple moved to Elizabethtown, Ky., where Lynn enrolled at the University of Louisville in her path to becoming a doctor. But as fate would have it, Rick was called in for a job he had applied for with Massey Energy, so the Stiltners came back to Pike County, and Lynn finished her undergraduate degree at what was then Pikeville College.
While Rick was working at Massey, Lynn finished her undergraduate degree and went to medical school at Pikeville’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. The family then moved to Johnson City, Tenn., for Lynn’s residency, then in 2006 back to the Tug Valley as Lynn went to work for Appalachian Regional Hospital for three years.
“She always said that at some point, once she completed residency and went to work, she wanted me to go back and finish,” Rick said. “During her three years at ARH I finished my Associates Degree in Business Administration, attending part-time while being a full-time stay-at-home dad for three kids.”
Rick graduated with a magna cum laude Bachelor’s degree in Finance with a concentration in Financial Management and with a certificate in Financial Planning.
His daughter, 20-year-old Amanda, will receive a degree in Political Science and Sociology double-major. She graduated summa cum laude and will attend UK Law School in Fall.
Having parents that worked so hard pursuing an education instilled a work ethic in Amanda. She graduated from Belfry in 2008, an honor student and Governor’s Scholar. With those honors came scholarships to attend any public university in Kentucky. She chose Western Kentucky University.
By then, Lynn was working at the Bowling Green Medical Center, and Rick enrolled at Western with his daughter.
Rick said it wasn’t always easy going to school with students so much younger than him.
“It was intimidating,” he recalled. “Especially this last semester. The intellect of the younger students was so great. It humbled me.”
He said it was a bit of an adjustment when he would re-enter the workforce or academic life after staying home to take care of his children.
“I would look at the clock at work and think, ‘Hey Thomas the Tank Engine is on!’ But, that’s how it is. My wife and I are a team, we do what is best for the family, whether it means changing diapers or going to school.”
But the years of effort were rewarded when Rick and Amanda graduated Saturday, together.
“We got permission to walk together to receive our diplomas,” Rick said. “It was so special.”
He explained that Amanda was born premature, and weighed less than five pounds.
“We really didn’t know if she would live,” Rick said. “She was two-weeks-old before we even got to hold her. She was a frail baby, which makes it all the more special to see her graduate from college.”
Rick said he and Lynn have made a lot of moves for their family, but he doesn’t feel he has made sacrifices.
“You just do what you have to do to take care of your family,” Rick said.