As part of our ongoing series that highlights NHTI alumni, the following blog post is written by Gary Tasker, who completed his General Studies with a concentration in Business degree in 1983.
I was raised locally in Chichester. When I started first grade in 1959, Chichester Central was a 4-classroom schoolhouse with 2 classes in each room. I graduated Pembroke Academy in 1971 with a class of 100. I had always had difficulty when it came to homework and study habits as my interest was in socialization and later work. I felt that if I could just graduate, I would never have to study again.
Jobs were hard to find in the early 1970s. I worked third shift at Rumford Press in the mailing room. I wanted more. The Vietnam war was raging. On the evening news, clips of dead Americans were shown nightly. My draft lottery number was low. I decided my odds were better for staying alive in the Air Force than the Army, so I enlisted in September of 1972. I was sent to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. I had to study if I wanted to graduate in 6 weeks. I did. Then I was off to heavy equipment school in Wichita Falls, Texas. Again, if I wanted to graduate, I had to study. I did. My first assignment was at Hurlbert Field Airbase in Florida where again I had to study if I wanted to make rank. I wanted more. It was through a friend I learned about night school classes on base that the Air Force offered through Troy State University. I took several classes that interested me. I studied hard and passed.
My return home from the service in 1976 found the job market to be no better. I attempted to find employment as a heavy equipment operator. Even with 4 years of Air Force experience, I could only find a job driving an oil delivery truck for a local company. I wanted more.
I started a small landscape business on the weekends in 1978. I knew little about landscaping and less about operating a business. Another friend and NHTI alumnus Ron Martel mentioned he was taking business classes at night at NHTI. He urged me to give it a try to improve my business management skills. I did. The government, through the GI bill, paid for my courses and books and leave me with a few dollars extra. Right away I liked the atmosphere, professors, teachers, and those older classmates with real life experience at NHTI.
Learning and studying became easier as I studied courses I enjoyed. The support from teachers and classmates at NHTI was exceptional. The type of courses they offered helped grow my business. When I struggled with math and accounting, NHTI had tutoring and uncredited courses to assist me. Many times, I wanted to quit as I was working several jobs and starting a business, but a couple of special people on the faculty always talked me out of it.
In 1983 I graduated! It took 6 years of night courses to earn a General Science/Business degree. I was the first one in my family to earn a college degree. My business has grown since 1978 from one dump truck and one employee to twenty-two landscape vehicles and many employees serving Concord and Lakes Region. Thank you, NHTI!