Health Professions student receives three graduate-level degrees in one weekend

June 13, 2016

By Greg Peters

Troy Clifford Dargin

If it seems like Troy Clifford Dargin can't sit still - he can't.

Never one to let life pass him by, the 38-year-old from Neola, Iowa, culminated his University of Kansas career in May after eight years on campus, receiving not one, not two, but three graduate-level degrees. Dargin's version of May Madness included a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Arts in political science and a doctorate in speech pathology.

He did all this while taking in as many of the associated academic hoodings, recognition ceremonies and graduate celebrations as humanly possible during a three-day span from May 13-15.

"I walked in graduation every time I could, because this won't happen again, and I wanted to enjoy it all," Dargin said. "I was super excited, and I enjoyed every second of it."

The making of a graduate

Dargin grew up in a town of about 900 people where his mother taught him he could do anything he set his mind to or be anyone he wanted to be. His grandfather, who was also his best friend, taught him how to be kind and humble. Still, it wasn't easy growing up in a town where he was bullied and shamed at school for being gay.

When he was about 7, Dargin begged his mother for a Shih Tzu puppy. A competitor invited him to a local dog show, and the youngster was immediately fascinated with showing Shih Tzu's.

"I was hooked," he said. "I decided I wanted to do it right and big - the way I do everything."

When he was 16, Dargin spent the summer in Lake Arrowhead, California, learning how to groom dogs from a professional dog handler. It was during this time that he became more comfortable with himself. He explains that because there are so many gay men in the dog showing community, it was the first place he felt safe expressing his sexual identity.

"At that time, I wasn't comfortable with that part of who I was, so I felt protected being around other people like me," he said.

Dargin's love of animals continued when he enrolled at KU in 2008 and began judging dog shows. He is currently a judge for the American Kennel Club in the Toy, Non-Sporting division (and working on a Sporting and Terriers credential). He's traveled the world working at dog shows and will be judging his first international competition this summer in Sweden. 

Busy Town Tour

Performing is another of Dargin's passions. During his undergraduate years at Northwest Missouri State University, he toured with a version of Richard Scarry's "Busy Town," which made it to every state in a 15-passenger van over a six-month period.

"I lived out of suitcase, which was difficult but fun," said Dargin, who also has a Master of Arts from the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to his credit. "I'm glad I did it. I made some lifelong friends on that tour."

During his run up to graduation, Dargin put his singing and acting career on hold until his dissertation was completed. He still managed to run a dog showing/judging enterprise and a continuing education program for speech-language pathologists who are accredited with the American Speech and Hearing Association.

"I'm the kind of person who would get BORED like crazy if I had to do the same thing all of the time," he said. "It's all exciting, or I wouldn't be doing it."

May madness

Dargin's graduation weekend odyssey began at 3 p.m. Friday, May 13, with the School of Business graduation, followed by a quick turnaround on Saturday morning for the School of Health Professions' Student Recognition Ceremony at 9 o'clock in Kansas City, Kansas.

Dargin cut out of the recognition ceremony just as it ended around 10 a.m., jumped into his car and made a mad dash to Lawrence for an 11 a.m. graduation ceremony at the Lied Center where he received his political science degree. Then at 1 p.m., he attended his speech-language pathology departmental graduation ceremony in Lawrence.

Throw in a quick reception at his house for family and friends on Saturday afternoon, and then it was off to attend his doctoral hooding at 6:30 p.m. again at the Lied Center. Finally, on Sunday, Dargin walked down the hill with his classmates in the annual KU Commencement that started at 10:30 a.m.


The next chapter

After the dust had settled and the mortar boards and graduation hoods were put away, the next chapter had already begun for the whirling dervish known as Troy Clifford Dargin?

During graduation week, he accepted a job as a clinical assistant professor at Yeshiva University in New York City where he'll be one of the founding faculty members for a new graduate-only program in speech-language pathology. Keeping with his theme of multi-tasking, school officials may also have him work on starting a music program.

And if he isn't busy enough with his day job, Dargin will be finishing up a master's in music in vocal performance at New York University.

President Dargin?

Dargin's mind races when asked about long-term plans. He would like to be a professor and move up the ranks to chancellor. And then there's law school. And don't forget creating a summer stock program in a "really cool place." And then there's the desire to audition for films and musical theater. He'd also like to finish his clinical certification in speech-language pathology so he can practice on his own.

And how about President Troy Clifford Dargin one day?

To that end, he gained legislative experience by attending a mock Congress at the Iowa state capital as a youth, and he is quick to remind everyone that he was born in Germany on a U.S. Air Force base, so technically he's still eligible to make a White House run - just in case he gets bored and can't sit still.

Last modified: Oct 20, 2016