“You can get a degree in a lot of places, but the friendships will last forever, and the professors genuinely care.”
Jeff Hobbs has spent much of his life defying the odds and disproving doubters. Born premature and stricken with spastic cerebral palsy, Jeff was continually told he couldn’t compete in youth sports. Although his condition restricted his mobility, Jeff became a star runner in high school and later ran for Ashford University’s cross-country and track teams.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts in 2004 and never stopped running. Jeff’s story became an inspiration to people facing obstacles, and he was featured in the Comcast Sportsnet documentary, “Guts: The Jeff Hobbs Story” and in the PBS special, “Jeff Hobbs: Heart of a Champion.”
Today, Jeff travels the country as a motivational speaker, and in 2015 he was selected to deliver the commencement address at Ashford’s graduation ceremony held in nearby Moline, Illinois.
“Honestly, I’ve spoken to a lot of different audiences, and I hold this one in high regard,” Jeff said upon hearing of the selection. “To be able to come back and hopefully inspire people and talk about how Ashford has affected my life is unbelievable.”
Jeff’s journey to Ashford began as he searched for a school that would satisfy his educational and athletic desires. Being from a small community, he wanted a campus with a “hometown feel to it” and found what he was looking for in Clinton.
“I learned so much about myself, just being on my own taught me to be independent,” he said. “Ashford is something that I cherish very highly, and I made the right decision getting my degree [at Ashford].”
Although he graduated more than a decade ago, and despite his demanding schedule, Jeff still keeps in touch with former classmates and professors. Those bonds, he said, are something today’s students should hold onto no matter where they go in life.
“You can get a degree in a lot of places, but the friendships will last forever, and the professors genuinely care,” he said. “I still feel, 10 years later, that Ashford cares.”
When asked what future generations of Ashford students can learn from his experiences, Jeff urged them to set their own standards.
“Regardless of who you are, you’re going to go through challenges. It’s the people that fight the good fight who end up being who they want to be, and never settling for anything less than that.”