William “Monty” Elam is the director of golf at River Ridge Golf Club in Raleigh, North Carolina. He has been legally blind for the past decade, but that has not stopped him from achieving his goals. While working full-time, he earned his Associate in Science in Turfgrass Science and Management in 2015 and Bachelor of Science in Turfgrass Science from the College of Agriculture in 2017 and is only one credit away from earning his graduate degree in turfgrass science — all through Penn State World Campus. He also earned a degree in finance from the University of Toledo and is the 2018 recipient of the PGA Deacon Palmer Award.
“There is nothing I cannot do, but having a visual impairment does have some limitations. The biggest hurdle was not for me, but for other people. Most employers felt I could not do the job because of my disability, especially in my line of work. Some things, like reading, do take a little extra time, and not being able to drive does have its setbacks. But every day I manage to make it work perfectly,” Elam said. “My experience with Penn State World Campus has been great. All of my classes have been very interesting, and being able to work on my assignments when I had time within my busy work schedule was a tremendous asset to me in earning my diplomas.”
Each year the Penn State World Campus Outstanding Alumni Awards recognize the success of alumni as leaders in their field and the impact they have on society and their profession. This year, Elam is the recipient of the Penn State World Campus Outstanding Undergraduate Alumni Award.
Renata Engel, vice provost for online education at Penn State, said Elam is a tremendous example of persistence in achieving goals, both professionally and academically.
“Monty’s accomplishments and achievements are certainly worthy of our recognition,” Engel said. “Blending his educational background and making incredible adjustments due to life-altering events are both admirable and inspirational. Of note is the additional commitment that he has made to contribute so richly to his community.”
Elam said he would recommend Penn State World Campus to others.
“The biggest thing I learned at Penn State is that everyone was willing to help each other, and everyone wanted to see others succeed in class.”