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Alum's journey from high school dropout to doctoral graduate

Wayne McCoy, D.M., credits leadership for making him the man he is today. The personal and professional skills he learned from the leaders in his life — many of whom he discovered at University of Phoenix over a 20-year higher education journey —helped him grow from a high school dropout to doctoral graduate to CEO of his own company.

Dr. McCoy’s passion for the topic led him to make it the emphasis of his dissertation research in the Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership program. However, despite positive influences and leadership defining the man he would become, these integral elements were missing in Dr. McCoy’s early life. It wasn’t until he was an adult with a family of his own that he recognized the desire he had to change his life through education.

He hopes his story can help illustrate the profound impact leaders can make in the lives of others and the importance of leading ethically.

“True ethical leadership results in people bettering themselves,” said Dr. McCoy, who earned his doctorate in 2019. “They become someone with self-worth and inspire others to do the same. True leadership, regardless of approach or method, is selfless and is focused on the lifting of others to their very best of self. Leadership approaches that are self-centered or self-aggrandizing are not leadership at all.”

An uncertain beginning

Dr. McCoy was an only child whose rebellious nature often clashed with his stepfather’s disciplinary style. There were many arguments and altercations, and at 17 he was kicked out of the house.

He moved to Tucson, Ariz., enrolled in a new high school and continued on a familiar path until he was expelled. In his early 20s, he began working at a donut shop where he met Tammy, his future wife and the first leader who would change his life. It was only the start of his transformation, though. Over the next decade, the McCoys had their struggles as they raised their family.

Dr. McCoy worked multiple jobs and long hours to support his family. Tammy regularly told him he needed to get an education if he were ever to advance professionally.

Finally, in his mid-30s and on the verge of a divorce, Dr. McCoy heeded her advice. He earned his GED and started taking courses through University of Phoenix.

“I wasn’t ready to be an adult. I was very selfish, and I felt sorry for myself.” Dr. McCoy said. “She somehow got part of my head straightened out for the first time in my life.”

Meeting his mentors

While pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Dr. McCoy would meet his second leadership mentor, Anthony Pitucco, Ph.D. As his instructor, Dr. Pitucco recognized Dr. McCoy’s innate leadership and encouraged him to tutor other students and continue pursuing opportunities as a volunteer to hone those skills.