Homeless man graduates with bachelor's degree from Gardner-Webb

by: Ken Lemon Updated:

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BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. —

John Barber took some of the biggest strides of his life Monday.

"It's a proud moment. A moment I thought would never come, but now it's here," he said.

He stood in a crowd of graduates during commencement at Gardner-Webb University and waited for an honor he believed was impossible -- getting a bachelor's degree in business administration.

"I thought I couldn't achieve it. I thought it was farfetched. I thought it was for everybody else, but not for me," Barber said.

Barber's father died when he was 7 years old.

For a while he, his five siblings, and their mother slept in a station wagon, until a shelter finally took them in.

"My professor told me to tell my story," Barber said.

Barber told his fellow graduates he didn't realize back then that he was homeless.

He eventually got married, had four children and took a job as a cook at a country club in Statesville.

When the economy turned in 2009, his hours were cut.

"Went from 40-plus hours to barely making 13 hours," he said.

He and wife spent all of their savings and were eventually forced to move into a motel until he found another job at a restaurant.

"I am just a cook," Barber said.

He was a cook who saved enough to go back to college at a satellite campus in Statesville.

He is not sure now what kind of job he will get.

"I just want to reach back and help as many people as I possibly can," Barber said.

Barber said this step is just the first of many more.

"This is not the stop. This is not the end. As a child, I had a goal to become a doctor," he said.

Barber has already made plans to start his studies to get a master's degree in business administration through Gardner-Webb. Then he will pursue his ultimate goal earning a doctorate.

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