Laurence "Chip" McGrath, III

Laurence "Chip" McGrath, III

Laurence "Chip" McGrath

Bachelor of Arts in Social Science

"The drive to excel has been restored in me..."

"I grew up as a self-sufficient farm kid in rural New Hampshire. I was the 13th of 14 children." Laurence "Chip" McGrath, now 33, found work in retail after he graduated from high school fifteen years ago, and quickly left his hometown. "I have worked for McDonald's, Ames, Lowes, Service Merchandise, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and even on a fishing boat in Alaska." Chip explains that while he never felt any real interest in retail, he was unable to break out of the industry because it was the only professional experience he ever had, aside from the Alaskan fishing. Further, he married young and had two children, and then went through a difficult divorce.

After the divorce, Chip moved around quite a bit. "I have seen every state in America, been to Canada, Mexico, and England, and I have lived in Florida, Washington, Massachusetts, and North Carolina." In 2005, when he was living in Massachusetts, Chip received devastating news: he tested positive for HIV.

"I mustered up the strength to move with my partner to North Carolina and escape our lives in Massachusetts. That was in May. By the following February, my life took another hard blow. My mother, the person I cherished most, was taken from this world."

Chip decided it was time to return to New Hampshire, and to take a hard look at his life and at what he wanted for his future. He discovered that he wanted to go back to school. "Fifteen years in retail and not really pushing for management was a sure sign that I was going to get nowhere fast. The idea that I could not truly provide for myself was another eye opener. The desire to be somebody, since I felt like a nobody, finally made me say, 'Just do it!' I enrolled at Ashford four days before my thirty-second birthday."

Now that Chip has been attending Ashford for two years, he says his biggest surprise is how much more mature he is than when he started. "I know how to communicate more effectively. I have learned all about time management and budgeting, how to be a better person in my current relationship, and how to talk openly about living with HIV. I can honestly say that if it was not for Ashford, I would still be struggling in a dead-end relationship, killing myself working in retail, and afraid to talk about my deep dark secret of being HIV+. The drive to excel has been restored in me, and it's evident by my 3.70 GPA and my place on the Dean's List."

Chip is working toward an April 2013 graduation date, and when that day comes he says he will absolutely be going to Clinton, Iowa. "I will be walking in the ceremony, you can count on that. I've been working so hard for my degree; I've earned the right." After graduation, Chip plans to use his Social Science degree to help him leave the world of retail for good. "I want to become an advocate for the two things I hold dear: HIV/AIDS research and funding, and animal rights. With my BA in Social Science, the world is truly my oyster."