Crossing the graduation goal line
Southeastern's only two-sport All-American earns his degree – more than 50 years later
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
William "Billy" Ladner stormed Southeastern's athletics fields in the early 1960s, setting records and becoming the only two-sport All-American in school history. More than 50 years later, the Southeastern Athletics Hall of Famer crossed the ultimate goal line when he earned his bachelor's degree in May.
A member of the 1960 and 1961 football teams that won back-to-back conference championships, Ladner also was a standout on the Lions baseball team. He received All-American honors for his efforts in both sports in 1961. One year later, and just six hours shy of completing his bachelor's degree in art, Ladner decided to leave Southeastern for personal reasons.
Ladner spent the next five decades building his family – complete with two children and three grandchildren – and a successful career as an insurance claims superintendant. While he always hoped to return to the university to finish his degree, it wasn't until after retiring and receiving encouragement from friends and Southeastern alumni that he decided to make his dream a reality.
Ladner's 98-yard interception return versus Florence State in 1961 is the second longest in Southeastern's history.
In January 2013, Ladner found himself in the classroom again. He spent the spring semester taking the courses required to earn a bachelor's degree in general studies. In May, Ladner walked across the graduation stage – 54 years after taking his first class at Southeastern.
"There are not a whole lot of things in my life that I've felt this way about, except for my family and children, of course. I found great personal satisfaction in earning my degree," said Ladner.
Ladner enjoyed returning to school but admitted it was difficult to get back into the routine of being a student. He studied hard to earn a high GPA his last semester.
"I didn't make it to too many baseball games this year!" Ladner said, claiming that school took up all of his free time.
Ladner, who resides in Slidell, La., with his wife, plans to spend time fishing, traveling and taking non-credit art courses now that he's accomplished his ultimate goal.