By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor
Two Portales residents took two different paths throughout their lives, two paths that were a part of 330 different paths that intersected Saturday at Greyhound Arena.
The arena was the site of spring graduation for Eastern New Mexico University, and it was the newest mark in the paths of Michael Connelly, 25, and Ron Sanders, 38.
Connelly’s path to graduation took the most conventional route possible for a graduate student, as he earned his bachelor’s degree in history four years after graduating from Portales High School, then took two years to earn his master’s degree in sports administration.
“It’s gone great,” Connelly said. “In my time here, I’ve gotten everything I wanted to get done accomplished.”
Accomplishment took a different path for Sanders, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fishery science. The first time Sanders attended ENMU was in 1990 — back when Connelly was nowhere near his football days for Portales High or ENMU.
Sanders never declared a major then, and says now he just wasn’t prepared for being an adult and a college student at the same time.
“I’d went when I was younger,” Sanders said, “and life happened — the bills, getting, married, that kind of stuff.”
Sanders took a long time before going back because he felt it was important to earn wages while his wife Teresa attended school. He loved earning wages by working on cars, but said the pay was anything but steady.
“I’d been doing body work for 20 years,” Sanders said. “I’ve got a shop, Sanders Paint and Body. The economy has got worse and worse, lots of competition. It was just time, and I was ready to do something different.”
For Connelly, the path has one constant — football. Connelly played as a defensive tackle for the Greyhounds for four years, and coached that position as a graduate assistant the season after his graduation.
Football will continue for Connelly, and the path will continue in Portales as he intends to be an assistant coach at Portales High School.
“I could have left,” Connelly said, “but I figured that I could do something for the community so I wanted to stick around and give back a little of what I’ve gotten over time.”
The path may continue locally for Sanders as well. He went to school to become a game warden, and said there are positions in the area that may be opening up through retirements.
“I’m really looking forward to doing something different,” Sanders said. “My education gave me the ability to get into the job I always wanted.”