There were times he thought he might not make it to graduation, but it was worth it for William Wyles when he stepped off the stage with his Niagara University diploma in his hand Sunday.
Two of his children, William Jr., 10, and Jeffrey, 7, were at the foot of the stage in the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center to greet him.
"I guess you could say I've set a good example for them," said Wyles, a Pendleton resident who works at Harrison Radiator in Lockport.
It took him 9 1/2 years to get his bachelor's degree in science of commerce, with concentrations in management and labor relations. He graduated magna cum laude.
A Lockport native, Wyles graduated from Lockport High School in 1970. "I gave college a shot back then," he said. "I think I set an all-time low."
Wyles began working for Harrison 13 years ago and in 1980 he took a satellite college class. That whetted his appetite and in December 1983 he received an associate's degree from Niagara County Community College. He started at Niagara University the next month.
Working on the line at Harrison, Wyles' schedule was varied; he switched from the swing shift to days and for the past 2 1/2 years, has worked the graveyard shift.
Last semester he had two classes three hours apart, allowing him to eat lunch, go back to his car and sleep.
At 37, Wyles was older than the majority of his classmates, and is fond of saying he graduated from high school the year after the Woodstock rock festival. But to many of his fellow students, Woodstock is the little bird in the "Peanuts" comic strip.
His schedule was particularly hard on his family, and he credited his wife, Patti, his sons, 3-year-old daughter, Kristin, with living through it.
"I think my wife and I have both resigned ourselves to my going back to get my master's," he said.