‘It’s Never Too Late to Achieve Your Dream’
26 Years After Enrolling, Mark Hodgdon ’19 Graduates with Honors
When Mark Hodgdon ’19 came back to Bentley to finish his bachelor’s degree 26 years after he first enrolled, the father of three had something to prove—to himself and his family.
“I had two goals,” Mark says. “To finally finish what I started and to show my sons Zack, Daniel and Luke that it is never too late to fulfill a dream if it means that much to you.”
Mark (pictured above with his parents, Richard and Valerie) makes it sound easy, but his journey was anything but; over the years he was riddled with guilt for dropping out of Bentley during the second semester of his senior year. “The day my family and I went to pick up my stuff and withdraw from the school was the hardest day of my life up to that point,” he recalls. At the time, he dubbed himself “a failed asset” and became depressed until he started dating his future wife two and a half years later. “Andrea saw value in me when I was still struggling to find it in myself.”
The pair married four years later and had a son in 2005. In 2011, they became licensed foster parents and by 2015 had adopted two boys. Mark was working in the operations department at Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution in southern Maine, where he had started as a teller during summer and holiday breaks from Bentley in 1995. While he enjoyed his job and his family life was thriving, Mark still had regrets about not finishing his Bentley degree.
It was Andrea who simply asked him: Why don’t you just finish your degree? And it was Andrea who, in 2009, made a call to Jane Ellis, Bentley’s longtime associate dean of academic services, to ask about the credits Mark had earned before dropping out. “Jane told Andrea that the credits didn’t expire,” Marks says. “When I talked to Jane, I found out I was just 24 credits shy of graduation.”
Though he wasn’t quite ready to go back to Bentley yet because of the commitment of a full-time job along with parenting a 4-year-old, the seed was planted: Mark realized he could go back and complete his degree. And by 2017, he was ready.
Though Mark admits that both the Bentley curriculum and managing his time were challenging, his life experiences and maturity helped him stay on course. An important part of that was a willingness to ask questions—something he says he was embarrassed to do his first time at Bentley.
“When courses started getting more challenging for me, I was too afraid to ask for help because I thought I was supposed to come into college knowing everything,” Mark says of his 20-something self. “If I had asked for help back then, I’m confident I would have gotten it and been able to graduate on time.”
His favorite project the second time around related to his experience as a foster parent. “The final assignment for my politics and policy course was a 10-page paper on any political policy topic we wanted,” he recalls. “They say to ‘write about what you know,’ so I decided to do the paper on Maine's foster care system.”
The grade, which came along with a note from Associate Professor Robert DeLeo that read, “This is a graduate-level paper,” was the first moment that Mark felt confident in his choice to come back to Bentley. “I knew I could really do this.”
But Mark also drew inspiration from the positive attitude and resilience of the children he and Andrea had fostered over the years. And when Mark decided to finish his degree, it was his turn to practice those traits.
“I went back to Bentley to close those old wounds that had been left open for so long; to show my parents and friends that I could do it,” says Mark, who graduated with honors in spring 2019 and is currently the vice president/digital banking manager at Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution. “And most important, I went back to show my kids that it’s never too late to achieve your dream so long as you are willing to sacrifice and put the effort in.”