Byron Barnes never missed a day of school in his life, not even while attending East Tennessee State University, which will become his alma mater when he graduates Saturday.
“Believe it or not, I’ve never gotten sick,” he said Thursday morning when asked how he managed to pull off that feat. “I’ve never had the flu, never had strep, never had chicken pox, none of that.”
Barnes attended Boones Creek Elementary School, Boones Creek Middle School and Daniel Boone High School before coming to ETSU.
He never really intended to not miss school during all those years. It just kind of happened, he said.
“I guess it’s good,” Barnes said of this achievement that few can likely claim. “It’s a good thing to put on a resume.”
But the degree is the most important thing, really.
“It feels good,” he said of his soon-to-be-in-hand bachelor’s degree in business administration. “It’s a journey. I worked hard. Other than graduating high school, it’s the best feeling in the world as far as education.”
Barnes works right now for his father’s business, Barnes Exterminating Co. He never worked full time while in class but he did work at various part-time positions before coming on with his father the last couple years of college.
He said he may have been tempted to lay out of class on occasion, but self-control and a determination to succeed got the better of him.
“I graduated at the top of my class in high school and everything, and my schoolwork’s always kind of come first,” he said of why he maintained the discipline required to go to class every day. “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”
Final grades were not in at the time of this interview, but Barnes’ GPA will be around 3.5, he said.
“I’ll graduate cum laude with honors,” he said.
He plans to put his business degree to work at his father’s company.
This summer, Barnes plans to go to Nashville to get his required license to manage an exterminating business with the goal of becoming a manager.
ETSU will hold two graduation ceremonies Saturday in the Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center.
Dr. Philip Bagnell, who will retire this summer as ETSU medical dean, will be the keynote speaker at the 10 a.m. commencement exercises, and ETSU alumnus Mike Smith, who is now head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, will address those at the 2 p.m. ceremony.