Graduate’s best friend
Student and service dog will be side by side for commencement
KENNESAW, Ga. (May 6, 2016) — When Sam Hogle is awarded his second degree from Kennesaw State University, a Master of Social Work, his constant companion of the past seven years will cross the stage with him.
Born blind, Hogle received a service dog through the organization The Seeing Eye prior to his freshman year at Kennesaw State in 2009. The golden retriever named Mason has since guided Hogle every day he’s been campus, negotiating any obstacles and getting him to class on time.
“The two of us obviously have a really deep bond,” Hogle said. “But on the other hand, it’s so routine that there are some days I don’t really think about it. It’s just normal.”
That is about to change, though, as Hogle’s graduation next week will mark Mason’s final trip to the KSU campus – at least as a working dog. Now 9 years old and slowing down a bit in his duties, Mason will retire to a life solely as the family pet following commencement.
“I do want him to have a few good years,” Hogle said. “He’ll just be a dog.”
While Mason is set to enjoy retirement, Hogle’s work is just starting. He will receive a new service dog to accompany him as he pursues a career in social work with a concentration in behavioral health. Hogle is optimistic about his job prospects after earning his master’s degree, following the Bachelor of Science in Human Services he received from Kennesaw State in 2013.
“I’m hoping it will make me more hirable, because it’s already a battle when you have a disability,” he said. “So the more credentials you have, the better the chance.”
Hogle’s professors have confidence in him. Alan Kirk, professor of social work, described Hogle as an excellent student who earned the respect of his teachers and fellow students. Irene McClatchey said he made great strides from the time she met him as a sophomore in the undergraduate program.
“Sam's confidence has grown tremendously in the years I have known him,” said McClatchey, the director of the Master of Social Work program. “Sam never let his personal challenges come in the way of learning or sharing his talents with his internship clients. He is focused on helping others get what they need to succeed and to live full lives.”
Hogle will don the traditional master’s degree graduation hood for his commencement ceremony, but so will his canine companion. Graduate research assistants in KSU’s social work program made a specially designed hood to give to Mason in a ceremony prior to graduation.
Mason also will receive a certificate of appreciation signed by Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp and one from McClatchey. Papp’s certificate lauds Mason’s “outstanding leadership and faithful service, loyalty and dedication” to Hogle and the University, while McClatchey’s recognizes him as an honorary Master of Social Work graduate of the class of 2016.
“After all, Mason sat in on all the classes!” McClatchey said. “After seven years of faithful leadership, loyalty, service and patience, Mason has earned our praise and gratitude.”
It will make for a memorable last day on the job for Mason. His handler hasn’t yet become sentimental about their partnership coming to an end, but knows he will.
“Mason has been a huge part of my college experience,” Hogle said. “I think I’ll reflect more on that once I’m not working him.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.