Archive for Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fatherhood, coaching — and a long-awaited degree

Elwood Ott will get his diploma from Haskell Indian Nations University on Friday. Ott, a father of two and a basketball coach at Haskell, balanced his family life and work and managed to graduate, becoming the first person in his family to do so.

Elwood Ott will get his diploma from Haskell Indian Nations University on Friday. Ott, a father of two and a basketball coach at Haskell, balanced his family life and work and managed to graduate, becoming the first person in his family to do so.

May 7, 2009


When Elwood Ott walks across the stage Friday morning during Haskell Indian Nations University’s commencement ceremony in the basketball gym, he said he would feel a sense of pride.

He’s a 29-year-old father who’s been attending Haskell — off and on — for more than 10 years.

Ott began attending Haskell as a full-time student in 1999, but then switched to working full time in 2001, so his wife could attend Kansas University.

But his desire to get a degree persisted, and he went back.

He took just a few classes here and there at first. He completed his degree by taking 21 credit hours this spring. That was on top of his other responsibilities, including his job as assistant varsity and head junior varsity men’s basketball coach, and a father to his two children, Jordan, 7, and Isaiah, 12.

Originally from Tulsa, Okla., and a member of the Otoe-Missouria tribe, Ott is the first in his family to obtain a college degree. He said he kept at it once he realized early on that a degree would be necessary for career advancement. Later, he gained another motivation.

“I’m trying to show my kids the importance of it,” he said. “I’m just trying to pave the way forward.”

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in American Indian Studies, he has sent out applications to graduate school. Wherever he lands, he hopes to continue coaching.

“I feel like I’m providing youth an opportunity to do something,” Ott said. “I’m helping to turn youth into, basically, men.”

Ted Juneau, head men’s basketball coach and athletics director at Haskell, said just about everyone on campus seems to know Ott.

He said that no matter where Ott turned next, he was going to be successful. He’s got a passion for basketball and a passion for people, Juneau said.

And even though some people kid Ott that he started school with some of his teachers, it’s a testament to his understanding of priorities and a desire to succeed that drove him to finish.

“A lot of other people would have probably just given it up a long time ago,” Juneau said.

Denise Cesare helped hire Ott to run the university’s store that sells apparel and other items. It was one of many on-campus jobs that helped pay for his education.

“I just don’t know of anybody that dislikes Elwood,” she said.

Cesare said Ott often asked about how she was doing and worried about her well-being — although he was juggling work, school and his family.

“He’s always put himself second and everybody else first,” she said. “He took a little bit longer to get his degree, and I think that’s one of the reasons why.”

Ott repeatedly said he didn’t think his story was much worth telling.

Then, he thought about the past 10 years for a moment.

“You know, I do feel like I accomplished something,” he said. “I feel proud.”


Kornphlake 8 years, 11 months ago

Look at Elwood on the front page of ljworld. Well let me take this moment to say congratulations.

seriouscat 8 years, 11 months ago

It took me 12 years to get my degree. I wanted to throw in the towel so many times!

Congratulations Elwood and all the graduates of 2009 who have put in the time and hard work to earn a college degree. It isn't easy for most but it is sure worth it!

stacy yazzie 8 years, 11 months ago

Hey Elwood- a long road and a long haul it has been. But come tomorrow morning at Coffin Complex, hold your head high, cause you did!!! Whoo-Hoo.. Congratulations my dear ol'long time friend. CONGRATULATIONS!!! :) You did it. Ni'zhoni'

SoupBone 8 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations, Elwood!

I am not a long-time friend of the young man, just somebody who happened to read the article (and who also hails from Tulsa and took 8 years to get my first degree).

It is incredibly powerful to be the first in the family with a degree and it really will make a huge difference as a guiding principle in the lives of your children. My mom was that beacon for me.

For all other Lawrence residents who have never had the privilege of attending a Haskell graduation, you are really missing out.

NDNJAYHAWKER 8 years, 11 months ago

WOW, I feel ya Elwood! I, as a parent and holding 2-3 jobs while attending college was excruciating but well worth it! I will see you tomorrow and will be hollering along with everyone else when that purple Haskell blank flip cover is handed to you!

Your wife, kids, and family should be so proud of the Ott Man of Haskell Campus!

Enjoy your weekend!

Sharon Aikins 8 years, 11 months ago

Well done, Elwood! Congratulations and best of luck in your life from here on.

OzChicklet 8 years, 11 months ago

Super congratulations Elwood! It took me 10 years (not consecutive years) to get my degree. I was 35 when I finally finished. You are not too old! Best of luck to you and your family. Even though I don't know you, I am proud of you!

MeAndFannieLou 8 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations Mr. Ott.

Nice article, very inspirational.

I always like to see Haskell news covered in the LJW.

nogoodguy1us 8 years, 11 months ago

Congradulations Elwood, be proud of yourself and don't ever let anybody take that away from you and your family. I know how you must feel, took me 10 years to get my 2 year degree from Haskell and another 9 years get my bachelors from K.U. while raising my 3 daughters. I'm proud to be Indian when I see young men like yourself getting things done and not running away from repsonsibility. You might remember me but I believe you knew my little brother Vincent in Tulsa. Congrats.

denak 8 years, 11 months ago

Allow me to join the chorus. Congratulations Elwood. You should be very, very proud of yourself.

Like many of the posters, it took me forever to get my B.A. because I had to work and take care of my son. There were some semesters that all I could take was one class but I never stopped.

One of the proudest moments of my life was when I walked down the Hill.....with my son....during the graduation ceremony.

I do not know how Haskell's graduation ceremony is set up but if there is anything like "walking down the hill" in it, walk with your sons. You will be their hero!!!!!


valveoil 8 years, 11 months ago

Elwood, congratulations!!! Best of luck wherever you go! I know everyone at Haskell will definitely miss you, I know my family will. We'll be cheering for you tomorrow!!

Your big dawg, Joel

Mary Wilson 8 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations Elwood!

I remember way back when you were a young man in my algebra class so many years ago. Yes, it may have taken you a while, but you stuck with it and you did it! That is what counts.

After reading all the comments written here, you must realize by now that you are not only an inspiration to your own children, but to so many others around you as well. Well done, Elwood. Well done!

I join your family, the Haskell family, and the greater Lawrence community in congratulating you on your accomplishment and wishing you all the best in your future endeavors.

DWebster22 8 years, 11 months ago

Just want to jump on the congratulations bandwagon. I remember this guy walking into the gym at Tecumseh 10 years ago when I was there. Talked a big game but barely played, but when he did he could sure shoot the ball. I remember you working at the IHS there too. I wasn't one of your friends, but I knew who you were and it's cool that you stuck it out man and got to coach in the college ranks.

I'm an aspring coach as well and hope someday to coach at that level. Good luck in your future endeavors and keep ballin!!!

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