GMC - News
Father and Son Graduate From GMC Together
Father's Day gifts: 2 college graduations, father and son
Article by Joyce Beverly, The Citizen
Zachary Pye, 22, and his father, Peachtree City Assistant Police Chief Stan Pye, 58, earned degrees from Georgia Military College June 1. Photo/Submitted.
It took Peachtree City Assistant Police Chief Stan Pye 3 decades but his long journey to a college degree ended with a joint walk with his son at GMC graduation; finding your ‘why’ —
There was something extra to celebrate at the Father’s Day cookout at Stan Pye’s home this year.
Stan, Peachtree City’s assistant police chief and a 29-year veteran of the department, and his youngest son, Zachary, walked across the stage together Saturday, June 1, earning degrees from Georgia Military College.
For both men, the journey to this milestone included some stops and starts, some giving up, and some starting over before they found the “why” that propelled them across the finish line. For Stan, the journey lasted more than 30 years. He’s 58 years old. Zach is 22.
Stan dropped out of high school in his senior year in LaGrange, Ga. He admits he was “somewhat of a hell-raiser.”
He had every intention of being productive, but college was never a consideration. Most of his friends were headed to blue collar jobs in manufacturing or civil service.
“The way I was raised, there was a lot of stock put in having a good job and being able to support a family,” Stan says. “I tell everybody all the time, ‘I grew up in the Archie Bunker household.’ I mean, I truly did. It was very important to have a good job where you worked hard and went home at the end of the day, knowing you could support your family. College never really entered my mind.”
He joined the Army and served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg, N.C., where he earned a GED.
“That was a big deal for me,” he says. “I remember calling home and bragging to my mom and dad, ‘Hey, I’ve got my high school diploma now.’”
He loved the Army and intended to be a “lifer,” but after two injuries, he came home to LaGrange where he began his nearly 35-year career in law enforcement.
“Back then all you had to do was go in and interview with the chief,” Stan says. “You might fill out a one-page application, but as long as the chief liked you, you pretty much got the job. College still wasn’t a huge deal then, not with cops.”
But there were a couple of people on the team in LaGrange that he admired for their knowledge and vision for the future. Inspired by them to further his education, he enrolled in LaGrange College.
He took three or four courses before life got in the way.
“My annual salary was around $12,000 a year, and that was with three kids. I had to work a whole lot of off-duty jobs to stay off of food stamps. I didn’t have the money for college, so it fell by the wayside.”
His career was on track, though. He was on the SWAT team. He formed the department’s Honor Guard. He immersed himself in his work and in 1990 he joined the Peachtree City Police Department as a patrolman.
“When I came to Peachtree City, of course, Major [Mike] Dupree was here and Chief [James] Murray. And they really started talking to me saying, look, if you want to do anything further in your career than being a sergeant, you’re going to have to go back and get your degree.”
Heeding their direction, he began taking classes he enjoyed at Griffin Technical College. This time he was sidetracked by a divorce.
He continued to progress in the department pretty quickly, though, making corporal and becoming a training officer. He earned stars and stripes when he took the promotions board and passed the sergeant’s exam.
“I was like wow. This is incredible.”
Before long, he passed the lieutenant’s board.
Meanwhile, he remarried, had two more children, and gained custody of his first three kids. With an annual salary of no more than $20,000, when something had to go, college took the hit.
“With five kids and all of them two years apart, you’ve got t-ball, football, cheerleading, band. Guess what? You’ve got to work extra jobs to make money to afford to pay for all of that stuff.”
Now and then, he would take a class, but mainly he worked.
“I found myself in a trap that a lot of people do,” Stan says. “When you go to college on your own dime, and you’re having to pay for it, and you skip around colleges, because of a move or family situations or whatever, a lot of the classes aren’t transferable.”
It was frustrating, having to retake the same classes.
“I was hard-headed and gave up,” he says.