The Kentucky State University valedictorian for the Spring 2019 Commencement Convocation retired as a state trooper and decided to use his second act to earn a degree in biology and apply to medical school.

John Bradley, a Lexington resident, said his relationship with Kentucky State goes back to 1996.

“I began service with the Kentucky State Police as a state trooper,” Bradley said. “At that time, the KSP Academy training incorporated 24 hours from Kentucky State University in subjects like constitutional law and criminal law. As my career progressed, I became interested in finishing my degree.”

Bradley rose through the ranks to the position of lieutenant colonel and was assigned to Kentucky State Police headquarters in Frankfort.

“It was a natural fit for me to re-enroll at Kentucky State, where I initially finished a degree in criminal justice,” Bradley said.

After retiring in 2017, Bradley found he had a hard time sitting still.

“It always nagged at me that I never finished a biology/chemistry course of study I had started as a young man back in 1988,” Bradley said. “My experiences at Kentucky State University had been very positive, so I re-enrolled and charged a course towards a biology degree and a chemistry minor.”

Bradley has completed the journey to his bachelor’s degree in biology. Now he has his sights set on medical school.

“I know it is a difficult path and I have to be realistic about the fact that there are no guarantees,” Bradley said. “Only 4 percent of applicants are selected, so I am really trying to put all the skills taught to me here at Kentucky State to good use to be competitive on the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test).”

Bradley said he also has interest in pharmacology and anesthesiology, so he’s also applied to graduate school programs. In grad school, Bradley said he would pursue further instruction in chemistry, biochemistry and toxicology.

Bradley said he was shocked to find out he was valedictorian.

“I legitimately thought it might be a prank at first,” Bradley said. “There are so many hard-working, smart and deserving students here. I am truly honored because Kentucky State and the people here who have been so supportive mean so much to me.”

As a nontraditional student, Bradley said he knew it was going to take hard work to fill in the gaps in almost 30 years away from the sciences.

“When I re-enrolled in the biology program, I was 47 years old,” Bradley said. “A lot had changed both in instructional styles and in the discoveries made in both biology and chemistry.”

Bradley said his classmates were top-notch and accepted him right away, making him feel at home almost immediatley. His love for science, Bradley said, made the catching up process feel more like an opportunity than an obstacle.

Overall, Bradley said he’s had a positive experience at Kentucky State.

“The faculty and staff at Kentucky State have been amazing to me,” Bradley said. “Any problems I have had, be it with registration, finances, really anything, have been met with such courteous and genuinely compassionate attention. I think it’s obvious the administration at Kentucky State has emphasized personal service and engagement from the top down.”

Bradley said Dr. Li Lu, Bruce Griffiths and Dr. Suzette Polson have been especially supportive in his academic pursuit.

“I think it speaks to how special the faculty is here that not only are they special to me, but they are special to my family, as well,” Bradley said. “My children have occasionally had to attend class with me and they love these professors and the whole experience. My mentors have not only inspired me, but them as well.”

Bradley said he’s grateful for the opportunities Kentucky State has afforded him.

“I am living proof that everyone is welcome here, even if they don’t fit the traditional student model and can excel here with the support that is available,” Bradley said. “It’s never too late to pursue what you love. You can always make room in your life for more education and academic pursuit in fields of study you are passionate about.”