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Jon and Brian Kirkpatrick - Father and Son Graduation

Brian Kirkpatrick was the first member of his family to graduate college – by about 12 seconds. His father Jon was right behind him.

Both Kirkpatricks graduated June 10 with associate degrees in EMS-Fire Science. For Brian, it’s the beginning of a career in firefighting; for Jon, it’s a way to be a better role model.

“The kids might say, ‘Dad, you didn’t go to college,’” Jon says. “I said, ‘I’ll go to school so you can’t say that.’”

The Kirkpatricks are working firefighters; Jon at Jackson Township and Brian at Pleasant and Harrison townships. Brian, 21, had planned to study Architecture, but decided it wasn’t for him. The Fire Science curriculum was challenging, but he used it all when he got back to the job.

“To take all the things that I learned at Columbus State and apply it on the job, that was a great feeling,” Brian says.

Students can become certified as a firefighter after one mega-course, FIRE 117, but can also complete an associate degree in EMS-Fire Science. Finishing the degree adds an EMT or Paramedic credential, a number of general education classes, and puts students in a better position for promotions.

Jon, 43, has been a firefighter for nearly 25 years, but he says he still got a lot out of the associate degree. He avoided taking Speech (COMM 105) until his last quarter, but found he learned a lot about interpersonal communication.

And he got to train with experienced instructors like Chief Jerry Mason, a living example of “command presence.”

Although he felt like a “fish out of water” as an adult learner, Jon says said he did better as an adult. “When I’m taking a class for myself and having to pay for it, I’m going to give it my all.”

Jon says he’s proud to share the accomplishment with his son, but as a father, he’d kind of like Brian to have the stage to himself. “I think I’d kind of like to be watching in the audience.”