Ada — John Gaines took perhaps the most unlikely path toward obtaining a bachelor’s degree from East Central University in 2011.
Gaines will share his story at 3 p.m. Monday, April 7, in the Parker Ethics Lecture in Foundation Hall of the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center on the ECU campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.
With faith, some loving family members and his ECU family, Gaines achieved academic success in 2011 by not only earning his business degree, but being selected as the outstanding general business student by the faculty and also receiving a special "character" award.
“John was an outstanding student known for his leadership, character, smile and effort. Many of us are just now learning of the obstacles he overcame in his journey to ECU and a bachelor’s degree,” said Dr. Pat Fountain, professor of business administration and director of the Parker Ethics Lecture.
Indeed the path had many obstacles as Gaines lived a turbulent and tumultuous life as a child.
In 1995, the 7-year-old Gaines found himself facing the darkest point of his life. His mother, a chronic, struggling drug addict, had just died of a massive stroke due to years of drug use. Then without a mother, Gaines lived in the Hilltop of Tacoma, Wash., which at the time had some of the highest drug and crime rates in America.
At the tender age of 7, he found himself surrounded by gangs, drugs and despair.
But in the years that followed, Gaines did receive love and support from his brother and sister-in-law, along with his grandmother, who all helped in rearing him. But some of the problems still persisted as he fought anger, learning disabilities and depression. He experienced most of these issues because his mother used drugs while he was in the womb.
With that small support group, Gaines overcame his issues and found success through hope.
“When I was 11 or 12, I played football for the first time and through that, I experienced hope,” Gaines said. “I realized I could be successful regardless of where I came from.”
Today, Gaines is a different person.
After attending junior college in California, Gaines earned a football scholarship from ECU as he played running back for the Tigers and was a member of ECU’s Lone Star Conference North Division championship team in 2010.
“John was a foundation member of establishing our program. With his leadership, unselfishness and team-oriented demeanor, we were able to really get a solid foundation for this program. He is an outstanding young man, a true professional. We are very proud of him,” said ECU head football coach Tim McCarty.
Gaines currently resides in Tacoma. He is pursuing his graduate degree in management and leadership and works in project management at a Fortune 100 company. Regarded as a phenomenal speaker, he often gives motivational and inspirational talks to various audiences.
Gaines is also CEO and president of PUSH, a company that “inspires all people to PUSH for their dreams.” PUSH stands for “Pray Until Something Happens.”
“For me, I came to the point where I decided I wasn’t going to wait for change to come to my situation, but rather I intended to be the change. I was going to live my life with faith in God. And, no matter what came my way, I was going to push,” said Gaines. “I told myself I would use my pain as my motivation to achieve everything my heart desires. With PUSH, I just hope to inspire others to push for their dreams and not to give up on them, regardless of where they came from.”
The lecture is being sponsored by the Parker Ethics Center, which was established at ECU in 1988 through a trust agreement to provide a forum for the presentation of issues involving business and societal ethics of interest to the business and academic community and the general public.
Oscar L. Parker was a respected educator, businessman, college administrator, civic leader and longtime ECU employee.