Most people who attend college pick a major, get a degree, and work in that occupation for the rest of their lives. Especially when the chosen major is something like Accounting. Today I want to share the story of a person who received an Accounting degree from Purdue University, but quickly pivoted to his life’s calling as a teacher.
My father, David Petska, grew up in Hammond, Indiana (just outside of Chicago) as the oldest of three boys. My grandmother stayed home while my grandfather worked in the Mobil oil refinery. They lived very modestly and actually rented out the upstairs of their home to help make ends meet. This meant my dad and his two brothers had to share a bedroom. He’s told me stories how the fight was to sleep on the couch in their bedroom instead of sharing the double bed with one of his brothers.
Upon high school graduation, my father attended a Purdue branch campus near home for two years, then transferred to the main campus in West Lafayette for his last two years. To help pay for school, my Dad worked as a waiter in the Alpha Phi sorority house. He didn’t realize it at the time, but this is where and how he met my mother, Jessie. Being a very analytical person, my dad chose to major in Accounting while my mother majored in Education.
Fast forward two years and my parents graduated, moved north towards Chicago, and found jobs respectively as an Accountant and elementary school teacher near Hammond. My Dad worked for a small firm and would often go visit my mother and her classroom during his lunch break. During these visits, he found himself helping to tutor some of the 2nd graders who were struggling. Within a year of this, he realized he had missed his life’s calling. Accounting was a great degree and fit his mind, but didn’t fit his heart. Around this time, they also decided they would prefer to live in a smaller town so they moved to my mother’s hometown of Mansfield, Ohio where my mom found a new elementary teaching job while Dad attended graduate school to earn his Master’s Degree in Education.
It’s now been over a decade since my Dad retired with 30 years in teaching and administration at Crestview Local schools in the Mansfield area. I can only imagine the hundreds, if not thousands, of lives he touched during his career. While I am confident many financial sacrifices were made by his career change, I wouldn’t trade those “things” for the world. My dad coached me in soccer for 8 years. He never missed a game, match, or program for me or my older sister, no matter the activity. I’m fortunate that both of my parents are around to now to attend many of my own children’s games, races and performances even though they live an hour away. As we approach Father’s Day, I think about how lucky I am that my dad followed his heart at a young age and wasn’t afraid to pivot from the degree listed on his diploma. Happy Father’s Day, everyone!
This WealthNotes Inspire was written by Tim Petska, TJG Client Advisor & Manager of Engagement Services