Jay Schafler of Villa Ridge received the 2013 ECC Outstanding Student Award at spring commencement Saturday, May 18. Schafler, left, is pictured here with Cookie Hays, vice president of student development, who presented him with the award. Submitted Photo.

Jay Schafler of Villa Ridge received the East Central College Outstanding Student Award at the 2013 spring commencement Saturday, May 18.

ECC Vice President of Student Development Cookie Hays said staff and faculty members describe Schafler as kind, respectful, hard-working and driven to succeed.

Schafler, a husband and father, is considered a non-traditional student.

He made the decision to return to college after an injury ended his previous career as an auto mechanic.

With the support of his family, he decided to study engineering.

Schafler received a scholarship through the Graduate St. Louis project, a grant program that assists adults returning to college, and was able to enroll at ECC.

Hays said Schafler liked to study in the Learning Center, but would often end up tutoring younger students and encouraging them.

“Jay knew it was important to find ways to become actively involved and to connect with others on campus,” she said. “He found that connection through the A Hero Club, a student organization which focuses on helping adult students stay in school.”

Eilene Acheson, ECC retention coordinator, said Schafler was always the level head in the crowd who stood up for what was right.

“He had a lot to balance, but he always kept things under control,” she said. “The club gave him a place to make a difference by helping other students. No task was too big for him to tackle.”

Dr. Barry Bookout, associate professor of pre-engineering, said entering an academic field of higher mathematics and advanced science as an adult must have been daunting for Schafler, but he approached it with an appreciative attitude and a strong determination to learn.

“I respect him tremendously for taking on such a big challenge,” Bookout said. “He could have chosen something less taxing than engineering, but he was determined to do his best.”

Schafler was president of A Hero Club and also was a Student Government Association representative and member of Phi Theta Kappa scholastic honor fraternity.

He was a diligent student who graduated with honors with a 3.6 grade point average.

Schafler was named Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and is also involved in his community as a leader of his son’s Boy Scout troop.

He plans to attend Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla next year and pursue a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering.

The annual Outstanding Student Award is the highest award given to a graduate of ECC.

The honoree is chosen by a vote of the faculty and staff.