What started as a radio station gag has turned into an award-winning academic accomplishment for Victoria resident Amory Gritta.
In 2011, Gritta wrote a series of blogs for a radio station website called the “40-year-old freshman” where he chronicled his semiserious return to school after two decades away.
“But something happened,” he said. “I realized that I really wanted to get a degree. And each time I got a degree, I felt like going further. That’s why I’m now earning a master’s degree.”
Gritta was named the spring 2017 outstanding graduate student in the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. Blue McCreary of Houston was chosen as the school’s outstanding undergraduate student.
Each semester, professors from UHV’s three schools select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement. UHV will hold two spring graduation ceremonies on Saturday at Faith Family Church, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane. The 9 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the schools of Arts & Sciences and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. The 1 p.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the School of Business Administration. A live-streaming broadcast of the ceremonies will be available at www.uhv.edu/graduation.
“Although their paths to UHV were different, both Amory and Blue showed remarkable dedication to their criminal justice studies,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “Each earned a 4.0 grade-point average five times during their time in college. Their determination and curiosity will serve them well in the next phases of their lives.”
McCreary crammed a lot into her time at UHV. She will earn a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and a minor in psychology.
McCreary said she always has been interested in the criminal justice system, and UHV offered her the opportunity to complete her entire degree in three years. McCreary took six classes during the fall semester and five more in the spring. She also served as a Resident Assistant at Jaguar Court and was active in a number of student activities.
“It was a balancing act,” she said. “Sometimes it was difficult, but school always was my top priority. As a Resident Assistant, I have to serve as an academic role model. I couldn’t tell others to go to class or do homework if I was slacking off.”
McCreary said her favorite thing about UHV was the close-knit campus environment. Last month, students selected her as the university’s 2017 Homecoming queen.
“You have an opportunity to get to know a lot of people and make your mark,” McCreary said. “I got to know my professors on a personal level. I wasn’t just an ID number.”
Next up for McCreary is law school. She has applied to the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, the UH Law Center and the Texas Tech University School of Law. She is interested in criminal law, though she envisions working in corporate law in the future.
Criminal law also intrigued Gritta. He will earn a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in criminal justice and psychology. In 2015, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology from UHV.
Gritta, 45, worked in Information Technology for two decades.
“I wanted to mix my experience with an education so I could come up with ways to cut down criminal actions that were taking place through social media,” he said. “This could entail human trafficking, ploys or scams to get money. I want to help with the dangers of criminal activity and technology being mixed together.”
Gritta said his work ethic was the main reason he achieved success in the classroom. Once he relearned how to learn, he made it a point to study as hard as he could.
“I guess you could say my midlife crisis was a master’s degree,” he said while laughing. “When you spend 20 years convincing yourself there is nothing left to learn and then you find there’s quite a bit you don’t know, it is humbling,”
In 2015-2016, Gritta served as the first student vice president of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. He wrote an essay that earned him a spot at a Phi Kappa Phi leadership summit in Utah. He also served as a student tutor at UHV.
Gritta said he was surprised initially that no one raised an eyebrow about having an older person in class.
“I always felt comfortable in the UHV classrooms,” Gritta said. “The experience was welcoming. I also saw a lot of students who reminded me of myself if I had gone to college at their age.”