Dudley Earns Cap and Gown for his Brother
Dec. 17, 2008 --When asked what he is graduating in, Will Dudley joked, “A cap and a gown.”
It is this sort of humor, among his other traits, that the 57 year old has won the hearts of his fellow students at Western State College. Dudley will graduate this Saturday with a degree in English.
The motivation for his return to studies at such a late age was his younger brother, Jon Dublin, a U.S. Diplomat who died in Iraq in February 2006.
Dudley, a Vietnam veteran himself, had always told his brother that he would one day return to school, to which his brother replied, “not in my lifetime.”
“Well I guess he was right,” Dudley said.
His upcoming graduation is a tribute to his brother.
“To honor my brother means the world to me,” Dudley said. “I would not have done this if it wasn’t for him.”
Dudley, a traveling musician, attended Belmont College in Nashville, Tenn., in the 80s but dropped out to tour with Tanya Tucker, a famous country music star. Other musicians that Dudley has worked with or has befriended include Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, and Charlie Daniels.
After his brother died, Dudley enrolled at Adams State College in Alamosa, the closest school to Walsenburg, Colo., where he was living. His friends, Rod and Ryan Pringle, who own and operate the Waunita Hot Springs Ranch, enabled Dudley to move up to Gunnison. They offered him a free place to stay at the ranch while he completed his studies.
Starting at Western in the fall of 2007, Dudley figured that he would be able to relate to his teachers, but not to the students, most of whom are half his age. But with his wit and involvement in campus and community activities, Dudley fit right in with his peers.
“Will quickly became a favorite among students,” remarked Mark Todd, an English professor and Dudley’s adviser. “There has never been a sense of separation from them.”
Todd says that Dudley’s popularity is due in part to his musical and lyrical talents, as well as his participation in extracurricular programming. Dudley is a popular act at the Gunnison Arts Center, and has performed there often over the last year and a half.
Krista Ehasz, a senior at Western, remembered how Dudley was nervous at first about fitting in. But as she has gotten to know him through English classes, and extracurricular activities like Wordhorde open-mic nights and playing music together at the Folksong Coffeehouse, she now considers him a close friend. “What’s great about Will is that he recognizes the importance of passion,” she shared. “Will has taught me by example how to just live for what’s here.”
Tiara Lopez, a junior at Western, shared that sentiment. “He has been a pleasure in my classes and always has something nice to say to me.”
“That has been the biggest surprise to me that I have been accepted among the wonderful young people here,” Dudley said.
Dudley notes that integrating into the world of computers was one of the major challenges that he faced. His last year and a half in Gunnison was also the first time he has stayed in one place in the last 20 years.
In the midst of finals week, days away from graduation, Dudley isn’t quick to praise his efforts, or to say that his effort is complete. “I won’t believe it till it happens,” he reflected. He added that he is extremely thankful for the students and teachers at Western and for the Pringle family.
“We’ve all taken away a lot from getting to know Will,” Ehasz shared. “He could be anywhere in the world right now making music and traveling and he chose to ride it out at Western. We all could learn something from the heart and determination he brings with that.”
“I for one will be sorry to see him graduate,” Todd added. “I hope he continues to think as fondly of us as we do of him. It’s rare to have an alum who has already made his mark as opposed to preparing to make that mark. We can already call him one of our famous alums – just as soon as he walks across that stage to get his diploma at Commencement.”
More about Will Dudley and his music can be found at www.willdudley.com
Story by: Luke Mehall, the assistant director of public relations