Sometimes it’s a long, long road to fulfilling your dream.
When Sadrac Noel graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, he could look back on many twists and turns in his path – and one professor who was always there for him.
“Don Leitch is the one who encouraged me,” says Noel. “He understood when adjustments had to be made.”
The respect is mutual.
“A wonderful person, Sadrac amazed the faculty with his determination and courage,” says Leitch, professor and undergraduate coordinator for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. “The story of his journey toward an engineering degree is a lesson in perseverance for all of us as we seek to realize our goals.”
Noel immigrated from Port-de-Paix, Haiti, in 1975, and began higher education at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in 1981, completing a bachelor’s in Mechanical Technology six years later. Though it wasn’t the engineering degree he wished for, it was a start. 
Noel wanted to teach, “but it didn’t work out,” he says. “It is just not my field.” Further setbacks came when a retinal detachment in both eyes damaged his vision, and with the loss of the house he had bought.
“With my vision not good, I got so down,” he says. 
Noel still wanted to work in civil engineering, a field that he says is “useful in so many different ways, everywhere, globally.” In 1998, he began taking some evening courses at UMass Lowell, with Prof. Leitch as his advisor.
The work was challenging, his study skills rusty. Noel took a semester break, came back to try again – then illness set him back once more.
“Maybe this is not my field, I thought. So I went to seminary and studied theology, but I still wanted my field. I wanted civil engineering,” he says. 
Noel returned to UMass Lowell in 2008, saying, “Let me finish it this time.”
The commute was long – Noel lives in Boston with his family. The extra hours were hard – he works full-time for the Boston Housing Authority. And the standards were high – “They expect a lot from you here. This is a good school,” he says.
On Commencement day, 2012, Sadrac Noel walked across the stage to complete his journey and begin anew. With his degree in Civil Engineering, Noel can work on developing water resources, building bridges, and solving geotechnical and transportation problems – all challenges in a globally connected world.