A Master’s Degree 54 Years in the Making for Merrimack College student

When Paul Nason '68, M'22 received his undergraduate degree from Merrimack, it was a very different Merrimack than the one he will receive his graduate degree from on May 20.
You might be hard pressed to find a Double Warrior who has had more time pass between their first and second degrees from Merrimack than Paul Nason ’68, M’22. When the Lowell native receives his master of arts in spiritual direction at Merrimack’s Graduate Commencement ceremony on May 20, it will be 54 years after he received his civil engineering undergraduate degree. “It was really feeding into this interest that started when I was first at Merrimack,” Nason ’68 M’22, said of his decision to pursue his master’s. “At that time, everyone graduated with a minor in philosophy and a minor in religious studies. It really delved into what it meant to be a Catholic and did it in a way that treated you as an adult.” Nason’s return to Merrimack actually started back in 2017 when he first inquired about the new spiritual direction program. He was intrigued not only by the area of study, but also getting into the program at the ground floor and helping to evolve the curriculum as students. Throughout his studies, Nason participated in a number seminars and practicums, culminating this past spring in his thesis project for which he launched a podcast on WMCK, the College’s radio station. He created three podcasts that featured interviews with program alumni, as well as Dorie Mansen, director of the Austin Scholars program. “I had the notion that a show could be done around this program,” said Nason. “There were some intriguing things about the alumni’s story and why they chose the spirituality direction program, and Austin Scholars is an amazing growth story for the Merrimack community.” Nason’s second go-around at Merrimack has certainly been different than his first. As an undergrad, the College’s dress code required male students to wear ties and sports coats and female students to wear dresses or skirts (except when it snowed). There were only five academic buildings and two residence halls on campus and construction had just begun on McQuade Library. And the idea of there being a pub on campus in 1968 would be unfathomable. “I remember watching the maintenance folks planting the trees along the walkway between Austin Hall and the library,” said Nason. “And when I came back to campus I was amazed to see how many are still here.” One other change Nason noticed is the expansion of the College’s dedication to service. “There seems to be an enormous number of off-campus programs being pursued throughout the student body to help the people of the Merrimack Valley community,” he said. After Commencement, Nason said he hopes to still work on the podcast and tell the story of the spiritual direction program.

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