Mike Hughey sat down with Pastor Dallas to share about his experience of going back to school and what he’s learned from the experience. Pastor Dallas’ questions appear in bold.
You recently graduated from Siena Heights University. What was your degree in?
I got a bachelor’s in business administration, which is not directed at marketing or directed at strategic planning or something like that. Business administration just has everything in it. And it’s basically what I do every day.
My goal is to get up one more step, at least off the floor. A little higher view of what’s going on. And that’s what I’m comfortable with. So that’s my goal here.
When did you start considering going back to school?
Nolan, my oldest son, was in junior high or maybe a freshman in high school. I always wanted to get my degree. I’d been thinking about going back for a long time. It’s one of those things in the back of your mind. You just kind of say, “Yeah, maybe someday.”
I always tell my kids they have to get a degree. I felt like me saying that and doing it is two different things. I felt it was important that I got one before they did. I told my wife about and she’s like, yea let’s do it.
Was there a book that you were assigned for a class that was memorable?
I had never read To Kill a Mockingbird and I had to read it for class and watch the movie. I liked it. That was nice.
To Kill a Mockingbird was based in 1931, but I think it came out in 1960 and the movie came out a couple years later. There was a lot going on in the country in the 1960s. I did the research. There were like 108 riots during that one period in 1968 across all these different cities.
And it’s just that whole period starts with that kind of stuff and people probably wouldn’t have recognized it as well without that kind of movie. Even to this day, I mean that book is from 1960 and it still gets you thinking about how things have changed. And how they’re still kind of the same.
Who are some of the people that were supportive that helped make that journey possible?
My wife was number one. She took on a lot of extra responsibilities as far as making sure the kids got everything. I mean, I still did a lot too, but she, when I said I had homework to do, it didn’t matter. She did whatever it took. So without her it wouldn’t have taken place.
All my in-laws, the family, my sister were all supportive, as far as just kind words and that sort of thing. Even my kids helped me out.
My sons were helping me with papers sometimes. Nolan knows math like a mad man. He helped me with papers. That kind of thing is fun to do. You never get that time back. You know, doing that kind of thing with him.
But the number one person was my wife, it boils down to that. She just, I don’t know how she does it all.
You’ve had a lot of goals lately with school, with helping at the Café, running cameras for worship, coaching sports, and starting running. Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself or your faith in this time?
If you give time to something you can do almost anything. If you just give yourself a chance. It’s all really up here mentally. I mean, telling yourself no, no, no, all the time – that just doesn’t work. You just get tired of can you do it or not. Just go do it.
“If you give time to something you can do almost anything. If you just give yourself a chance. It’s all really up here mentally.”
My last paper was about how do you find the good in your life. How do you find the fulfilling life? And that’s helping people. If everybody just took time out of their day just to make somebody else’s day better, we’d have a lot less problems. It’s that simple to me.
And I learned that a lot from my wife but if you can just help people by serving them once a week. That’s simple. At work, making sure somebody’s got what they need. Helping kids through coaching or helping their folks with something. You just take the time, not to get something out of it other than just joy. And that’s the biggest thing. If you can do that once or twice a day, then everything else will fall into place.
It all pays off in the end, but I guess what I want is to help people out. The only reason to help them out is to see the joy that it gives them. That’s it for me right there; I don’t need anything else. That’s what I learned a lot through the pandemic and through this process and coaching and serving here. You help one guy out and he may remember that for the rest of his life. He might help the next person out, the next person out, the next person out, it can’t stop.
“It all pays off in the end, but I guess what I want is to help people out. The only reason to help them out is to see the joy that it gives them. That’s it for me right there; I don’t need anything else. That’s what I learned”
On a day where you wake up and you didn’t feel like writing that paper, or didn’t feel like going out on a run or getting up to come help or something, what helps you to just keep moving?
This sounds kind of selfish, but I just think to myself, who else is going to come help if I don’t go? I mean, there’s a lot of other people out there helping, but I ask myself if I don’t go do this, who’s going to? And I know other people will. That’s just that’s how my mind works.
With the service, sometimes I might kick and scream, and my wife will say we’re going to do this. But I know when I get there, I’m going to enjoy myself. I know I’m going to feel so much better because the feeling that it gives me. I don’t know if that’s faith or spirit.
I don’t know what that is. I just know that I like it and I don’t like I don’t like putting a label on things necessarily because once I start doing that, people have their own opinions about it. I just know how it makes me feel. I know how coming to church makes me feel, and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t keep going back. Whatever you call that in your own beliefs go ahead and call it that. But that’s how I feel. I really feel strongly about it.
You got to have something. I guess faith is what it is. You got to have faith in something.
When you say you’re religious to people, the first thing that clicks in their mind is some TV evangelist. I want people just to know that I come to church because the feeling that it gives me and the avenues that it gives me to help different people. If I didn’t come here I couldn’t even attempt to help half the people that I think I do.
I think people hear that I’m going to church and they get nervous, they shut down. It’s fine, but I think that feeling that gives me, I can’t explain it. It just makes me happy. I don’t know why it just does. I’m glad it does. It’s not a bad thing.
I think making people happy, if we all could just focus more on that, the world would be a much better place.
It seemed like two things were really important towards getting your degree, you had a goal and you had an urgency to do it. You wanted to finish it before your kids. It sounded like it was important to not just tell your kids this matters, but to show them that too. Have they said anything to you about this process?
Definitely. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s one of the other things. That’s why I had my laptop out nonstop for two years on my lap in the house or on vacation, always doing homework. Yeah. If I’m telling them it’s hard work, but it’s important. It’s kind of put up or shut up. It’s time for me to do it. I got to do it.
My middle son has said quite a bit. He was picking on me via text. He wanted to know why I didn’t get cum laude. And I missed it by that one last class. I said, “Well, I struggled with that last class. I just, I just didn’t get it.”
I probably could have gotten it, but I just didn’t get that last class. So let that be a lesson to you. Even though you think you got something it could be taken away right at the very end. So it wasn’t my goal to get that, I never even thought I’d ever even be eligible for it, but I blew it there with that last class.
My oldest son gave me a little speech the day I graduated about school and how he never thought he’d have to compete with me at grades. Because I was like a C student in high school. I never gave effort. And I’ve been pretty vocal about that to my boys, so I really push them. So it was funny to hear him say that. He said he’d never seen a person write a term paper so fast either. I wrote like a nine page term paper on To Kill a Mockingbird on a Saturday afternoon. I had to get it done. So he said it was fast. I had him proofread it and I got a pretty good grade on that. That was fun.
After celebrating graduation, do you have any upcoming goals or thought about what’s next?
I was thinking about a master’s degree, but I’m not 100% sure yet. I wouldn’t start that until next January anyways because I want to get basketball done. This is my last year coaching; my son’s in eighth grade so that’s it.
Sam and I are training for a 50 mile run in October. So I can focus on running again more than I had been that last semester. I kind of went around six miles, five nights a week, so I wasn’t so focused on running.
There’s a lot of people who have a lot of dreams and hopes and they think, “Oh, I wish I would be able to do this or that.” And then it just doesn’t happen. Do you have any words for the dreamers out there about what they can do?
It’s worth it. I mean, it’s worth getting it done. I put off school for a long time, since 1997. Something I always wanted to do again. I always told my mom I would do it.
It was hard, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I had it built up in my head. Which I think was funny. I could have got this knocked out years ago if I just would have not been so stubborn, not been so scared is probably a better word.
“It was hard, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I had it built up in my head. Which I think was funny. I could have got this knocked out years ago if I just would have not been so stubborn, not been so scared is probably a better word.”
Just go and do it. Even if you struggle. Just don’t stop. Stopping is the killer, obviously.
Even running. Even if you don’t feel like it. It’s raining. You don’t feel very fast. Just go for a run.
It’s the same way with school. I don’t feel like writing that paper or doing that homework or having that online discussion for the hundredth time.
Get down there and just start. Some of my best days writing papers and typing were the ones that I just really didn’t have it in me. But it was just somebody said something that sparked me to think of something in a new way that really helped me out. I know it sounds corny, but just go do it. It really it really is just that easy. You got to go do it.
For me, you’ve got to stop making excuses. Just do it.
It helps to have positive people in your life. If people around you are telling you, “no, no, no, you probably shouldn’t do it.” Maybe you should look for more positive in your life, because you can do it.
Positivity is the key. My wife encouraged me the whole time. And she didn’t wear kid gloves all the time. When I was like “oh this stinks.” She’s like, “get back in there and do it.” Without positive people in my life it would have been a lot tougher.
If my wife had questioned my desire to go back to school at all, I probably would’ve said no to it.
And not because she wouldn’t think I could do it but I just I knew without her support I couldn’t get it done. Her being that supportive; it made it so much easier.
And now I’ve got a bachelor’s degree.
This article appears in the June – July 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.