Lee Speights is an accomplished author, business owner, certified personal trainer, and U.S. Army veteran, and thanks to the School of Adult and Graduate Studies (AGS) at Montreat College, he can soon add college graduate to his already impressive resume.

“I have one last class to go,” said Speights, who lives in Rock Hill, SC, and anticipates a completion date of December 31. “I still have to go up the hill, but I’m going to make it to the top.”

While sitting at a table where he spends a lot of time thinking, praying, and completing his homework, the resident of Rock Hill, SC, talked about his decades-long journey to completing his bachelor’s degree.

What motivated you to return to college?
I retired from the U.S. Army after 23 years of service, and to finish my bachelor’s degree was a goal that I had. Because I was no longer in the military, I really didn’t have any more excuses. I probably should have done it in the military, but I kept putting it off, and when I retired, that was one of the goals I had to complete my degree.

What led you to apply to the AGS program at Montreat College?
As I was looking for schools, I wanted to be able to go into the classroom, and I wanted to be in a program where there weren’t many kids just coming out of high school. Montreat caught my eye, and I started attending classes in Charlotte. When COVID hit, everything went online, but I had come too far to just pull out and try to go somewhere else, so I stuck with it.

How close were you to completing your degree before Montreat?
I was probably less than halfway there. In the military, I went to a few different colleges based on where I was located. Once Montreat told me they were able to transfer the amount of credits I had from previous schools and colleges during my military career, that sold me.

How much time do you spend on classwork each week?
It depends on the subject, but I would say anywhere from four to 12 hours a week.

How many classes did you take at a time?
Depending on the class, I may take two, but most of the time I took one because it was a good pace for me because it helped me to be able to do the work. At the same time, I got a break in between to rest my brain.

What degree are you pursuing?
Initially, I was pursuing a psychology and human services degree, but I decided to stick with human services because I felt it still dealt with some psychology, and it fit with my goals for writing and doing some other things.

How many books have you written?
I’ve published two books already, and my goal is to have another one completed by next year. The first one was published in December 2016 and is a self-help book for relationships, Miss Wright for Mr. Right. It’s based on some personal experiences, research, and interviews I’ve done with men and women. My second one is poetry. My mom passed away just before I retired from the military in 2016. A couple of years later, I decided to write a poetry book that’s a reference for mothers. The first part is poems dedicated to my mom, and then the other half is written to mothers in general.

How do you balance school with your business, family, and writing?
It does get overwhelming sometimes, so I turn to prayer. I’m a man of faith. I’ve found the best way is to concentrate on no more than two things at a time.

What is your goal after you graduate?
I had a fitness business that I put on pause and I’m concentrating on reestablishing that. When I got to this area, I found myself using a lot of psychology and counseling, even in physical fitness based on certain scenarios and situations. My goal is to use this degree to tie into my business and my writing because I do a lot of speaking engagements and talking to people. I want to see things from different perspectives, too, and I plan to do some human services work, maybe part-time or continuing volunteering because I volunteer now and am working at a Boys and Girls Club.

What are the biggest benefits to you about Montreat’s AGS program?
I really appreciate Montreat’s Christ-centered courses. I thought I knew a lot about the world and a lot about Christianity, but at the same time, there’s so much more that I don’t know. At Montreat, you know your professors are Christians. They are genuinely concerned about us as students. They believe in the Lord, and that comes through just about every course that I’ve had. I believe that has helped me a lot because I can see things a little clearer than before, just like putting on some glasses.

What advice would you give to someone considering going back to college to complete a degree?
I would say that if it’s something you really want to do regardless of how long it’s been, regardless of your age, you can do it. You have to start somewhere, so go for it. Find out what you need to do to get there, get started, and pursue it!

Why would you recommend Montreat College?
At Montreat, I’ve gotten to know many special people, who are willing to help you get to where you need to be. If you’re looking for a Christian school and you’re a strong believer, then Montreat is the place to be.