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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
Depot Marine graduates with honors, earns perfect GPA

By Cpl. Virgil P. Richardson | | June 18, 2004

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- Marines have a time-honored tradition of excellence. While public perception often defines the Corps as "the best of the best," perfection is rarely possible. However, one Depot Marine has found a way to achieve just that.

Master Sgt. Donald Downey, Tri-Command Traffic Management Office chief, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Park University June 1 with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. From the time he began taking classes in his off-duty time while stationed in Okinawa, Downey never received a grade less than an A.

"One day I'll learn to read a little," joked Downey.

The candor with which he downplays his success is typical of his modesty, said Dr. Ronald J. Curtis, Park University Beaufort campus center director.

"He certainly never let his success affect his ego," said Curtis. "He worked hard, studied hard, and succeeded. He never found it necessary to call attention to himself."

An admitted self-motivator, Downey used most of his spare time for school. Although he had struggles, his desire to finish was enough to push him to continue.

"I had to make myself study at times," he said. "Even when I wanted to do anything else, I had to make time to fulfill my responsibilities."

That motivation is what Curtis hopes will be an example for other students to follow.

"The thing that makes him stand out in my mind is his academic motivation for success," said Curtis. "He truly set the tone for others to follow."

Filling up his free time with school eventually took its toll on him, Downey said.

When it got to the point where he did not want to do it any more, he did what he says was the smart thing to do.

"I stopped going," he said. "When it got to the point where I was burned out, I took breaks where I needed to."

Losing time away from his family at night to attend classes was not an issue for Downey. In fact, the Downey family found a way to make attending classes a family affair.

"At one point, my wife, daughter and I were all taking classes at Park together," said Downey. "My wife and daughter even had a class together. We got to spend plenty of time together doing something we all enjoyed."

With a bachelor's degree in management and an associate's degree that focused on criminal justice, the 21 years Downey spent in the Corps have prepared him for success in several different career fields.

The hardest part of transitioning into a successful civilian career will be choosing a
job, he said.

"I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up," said Downey.

While he said it is unlikely he will pursue a career in criminal justice or traffic management, he may fall back on skills he learned during what he called the most rewarding tour of his career.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a recruiter," said Downey. "I would like to try to be a corporate recruiter."

As a corporate recruiter, Downey would search out applicants for corporations ranging from trucking companies to Fortune 500 companies. Downey said finding a good employee is not unlike finding a good Marine recruit.

"The fundamentals are the same," said Downey. "The same qualities you would look for in an applicant for the Corps, you would look for in a potential employee. You look for honest, hard-working individuals."

If corporate recruiting doesn't go well, Downey will recruit for colleges, in effect competing against the Marine Corps for young men and women.

"There are plenty of high school students out there," he said. "I couldn't single-handedly put the Marine Corps out of business."

In addition to all his civilian education, Downey has graduated as the honor graduate in almost every military school he has attended. He also has two certificates in Theology from International Bible Institute and Seminary. He achieved a perfect 4.0 grade point average while earning both Theology certificates as well.

When he isn't spending all of his free time buried in books, Downey is extremely active in his church. A devout Christian, he is quick to point out that none of his success is his own.

"I give all credit to God because all my blessings come from him," said Downey.

Set to retire this summer, Downey said the transformation back into civilian life will be a smooth adjustment. The one thing he won't have to adjust to is being able to pursue his other passion.

"I'm moving with my family to Colorado so I can spend time with the kids and grandkids," he said. "Whatever happens after that is unimportant. No college degree is as important as my family."

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