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Price Scholarship Winner Determined to Succeed

When Tom Price Jr. established a UCO scholarship, he knew he wanted to help older students who were working and/or raising a family while trying to get a UCO degree in Business.

While Price, senior vice president for corporate development at Chesapeake Energy Corp., may have been thinking about his own journey to a degree, he couldn't have imagined Brian Hatchett's struggle or what a saving grace the Tom Price Scholarship would be for this single father of three who now has the chance to graduate in 2010.

Hatchett's hard road started his senior year of high school when his parents divorced, leaving him in 1995 with no financial support to attend the University of Tulsa, as he had planned.

So, he attended Rose State College for a semester, then joined the National Guard. At the same time, his high school sweetheart joined the Air Force, both of them naively thinking they'd be stationed together at Tinker. Wrong - she was sent to Turkey.

The pair decided to quickly marry, and Hatchett, at age 20, found himself in Turkey taking correspondence courses.

In 1998, they moved back to Oklahoma, and he went to work for Dolese Brothers where he learned about a program in robotics management at Rose State. He signed up, imagining a job later at an Oklahoma company like Lucent Technologies or General Motors.

Working more than 50 hours a week, mostly on the graveyard shift, it took him five years to complete the associate's degree in 2003. During that time, his home was destroyed in the May 3, 1999, tornado, while his wife was pregnant. He slept in his car between classes and sold plasma to earn extra money.

Also, during those five years, Lucent closed with GM to follow.

"It was a wasted degree for me. I was proud of my accomplishment, but it was a disappointment at the same time," he said.

Then his marriage ended, and he became a single dad with three children and some tough life-decisions to make.

"I knew I could either go to school full time or work full time, but I couldn't do both," he said.

With the support of friends and family, he enrolled full time at UCO. Having been disappointed in the job market before, he was drawn to the UCO Education and Training Partnership with Tinker Air Force Base, a program in the UCO College of Business. Successful students have the possibility of both an internship and job upon graduation.

Although not selected for an internship his first try, six months later, wearing a newly purchased sports jacket, he succeeded. Life was looking good. Then, because of excessive college credit hours, he learned he no longer qualified for financial aid.

"I received the letter over Christmas break," he said. "My job and internship were dependent upon me going to school and obtaining my degree. I was pretty distraught."

Dr. Robert Curley, associate professor of Economics, encouraged him to apply for scholarships with the UCO Foundation, which led to Hatchett being one of two students to receive the 2009-10 Tom Price Scholarship in Business, a $5,000 award.

Now he can finish his degree. He knows a job at Tinker isn't guaranteed, but he plans to "hustle" to make it happen.

And then, he thinks, he just might work toward a master's in Business Administration.

(Photo: Scholarship recipient Brian Hatchett poses with his children from left, Lauren, 9; Reese, 3; and Ben 6.)

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