When Captain Matthew Ayres, who serves in the Kansas Army National Guard, was deployed to the Middle East last December, he committed to improving his health by exercising and losing weight.
To do so, he set an ambitious goal: log 2,000 miles walking or running around the Army camp and surrounding desert area. He nearly hit that goal and ended up running/walking 1,948 miles.
“I lost 42 pounds and hit the gym six days a week to meet my goals and stay fit for the Army fitness tests held twice a year,” Ayres said. “It was amazing to see the region and know I was getting fit.”
Ayres grew up in Michigan and joined the United States Marine Corps in 1991. At the same time, he took college courses from various colleges up until 1995, when he moved to Kansas for a job in law enforcement with the Wichita Police Department. He worked there for about 10 years and continued to serve in the Marine Corps until 2009.
While working as a police officer and Marine Corps reserve, Ayres enrolled at Newman University to pursue a degree in business.
“Newman was my first go-to as a Catholic student, and they also offered me the most credits when they reviewed my transcripts and military service,” he explained. “I attended Newman on and off over the years, but life and work were my primary priorities.”
As life eventually settled down and his children got older, Ayres returned to Newman to finish his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, which he received in 2016. He then immediately enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program, finishing in 2018 with an emphasis in organizational leadership.
“What kept me coming back over the years and committed to graduating with a bachelor’s degree and MBA was the outstanding feeling I had every time I came on campus and re-enrolled to take classes,” Ayres said.
A noteworthy experience at Newman
Ayers said attending Newman felt familiar, “like coming home.”
“The customer service was sincere and heartfelt, and the faculty and staff remained consistent,” he said. “The common thread and link that kept me was Teresa Wilkerson,” who at the time served as the assistant dean of adult studies.
Ayres renewed his military interest in 2009 when he enlisted in the Kansas Army National Guard. He continues his military service still today and is proud to do so.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to do something larger than myself that impacts so many people every day,” he said. “Sometimes the impact is not seen, and sometimes it is.”
Ayres added, “As a leader in the Army, leading soldiers every day and interacting with dozens of people outside the Army at every echelon of life, my bachelor’s degree and MBA have helped me to excel ahead of my peers and even set me ahead of senior leaders who do not have an MBA. It has set me up for success and will continue to for years to come.”
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