KOKOMO, Ind. — No matter how long it takes, Jake Query finishes what he starts.
On Wednesday, he walked across the Commencement stage at Indiana University Kokomo, celebrating the completion of a bachelor’s degree he began in 1991.
“It was the only thing in my life I had set out to do that I hadn’t finished,” said Query, who has had a decades-long career in Indianapolis sports radio. “In that regard, it was important for me to be able to say I did it.”
His return to college was prompted by an on-air conversation, in which his interviewer referred to him as an IU graduate. Query told him he attended IU in the 1990s but did not complete his degree.
Soon after, he received a call from Teresa Lubbers, the then-Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education. She told him he was among about 700,000 Hoosiers who have completed some college, and mistakenly believe their credits have expired.
“She asked me, ‘Would you be willing to go back to set an example to other people?’” he said. “I thought it was important not that I personally had a degree, but rather that I finished something I had initially set out to do. For people who might be in a position where it might make a big difference in their life, I can show that if a 50-year-old guy can figure out how to navigate a laptop and online classes, anyone can. I can’t even hook up my Atari.”
Query began his college career after graduating from North Central High School, Indianapolis, in 1991. With grades not high enough to be admitted to IU, he chose the University of Kansas, with a goal of working in radio and television.
“I was too immature and too homesick to handle being that far from home,” he said, adding that he also felt resentment for having to earn a degree rather than jumping right into his career.
He left Kansas and enrolled at IUPUI, where he experienced some success and earned the grades to transfer to Bloomington. Rather than enjoying the college lifestyle, though, he found himself hanging out at a television station instead of going to class, “until they realized I wasn’t going away, and they hired me,” he said.
That began a successful career in broadcasting, including being a turn announcer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, and a morning show co-host on 93.5 and 107.5 in Indianapolis.
“I was very fortunate,” he said. “I can look back now and realize things fell my way at no credit to me. I had really good people around me. I had good opportunities. I had people who looked out for me. Things fell into order for me from a career standpoint.”
Even with that success, though, occasionally Query thought about the degree he hadn’t finished – in particular when he was selected for his high school’s Hall of Fame.
He’s proud of his academic success in his return to college, noting he earned a 3.8 GPA and was on the dean’s list. The letter he received congratulating him for that accomplishment is one of two letters framed in his home — the other is a letter from Indiana author Kurt Vonnegut.
His success is the product of making the commitment and working at it, he said.
“I didn’t do anything special; I didn’t do anything that anybody else can’t do,” he said. “I should have done it at 22. It’s a lot easier to do it right the first time, rather than having to do it over.”
Query looked forward to walking in Commencement.
“I wanted to prove to myself and show the example to others that there’s no time limit, there’s no expiration date on growing intellectually,” he said, adding he hopes to inspire those with similar stories.
“My job comes with a lot of perks, and those come with responsibility,” he continued. “I have the responsibility to use the microphone to give voice to people who might not have a voice. People who fell behind academically, and felt they owed themselves more might have felt there is no one hearing them. To use the microphone to say, ‘I do know, here is how you can handle that,’ is a great privilege, and I don’t take it lightly. I do that to the best of my ability, to show my appreciation for that platform.”