Unfinished Business


A father goes back to school 30 years into his career, inspiring his son.

by Catherine Garcia ’06

At the age of 52, Cary Attl ’14 made a commitment to himself: He would go back to school and earn his college degree.

Attl was 31 years into his career at AT&T, but the San Diego resident says he had “long and quietly been self-conscious” about not having graduated from college. In June 2011, after years in middle management positions, he interviewed for an internal promotion and despite glowing reviews and respect from leadership he was passed over because of his lack of educational credentials. While that was what spurred Attl to go back to school, there was a bigger motivation.

“I didn’t do it for a promotion, or the promise of a promotion, both of which are valid reasons,” he says. “I did it for me, and that was an important distinction.”

Attl had gone back to school a couple of times, but “allowed life to get in the way” and didn’t complete his coursework. This time, he chose the University of Redlands School of Business because he wanted a classroom environment where ideas were freely exchanged, and professors had both academic and contemporary business experiences.

The closer he came to graduating, the more Attl realized he wanted to stay connected to the University. He approached Tom Bozman, director of the San Diego campus, and volunteered to share his story with potential students. Attl has been speaking at open house events ever since and is now chairperson of the
San Diego Regional Alumni Chapter Board.

“It’s my way of paying forward the tremendous difference the University of Redlands made in my life,” he says.

There’s one student he has a special interest in: his son, Kyle Attl ’16. Kyle earned his undergraduate degree from California State University, Northridge, where he played Division I baseball for four years. He played professionally in the Washington Nationals organization and then entered the business world. When his father told him he was going back to school, Kyle asked why someone who already had a “great life” and successful job would feel compelled to get their degree.

“His response was one simple sentence: ‘Kyle, it is the one thing I started and never finished,’” Kyle says. “That was the only answer I needed. This stuck with me, and it is a moment I will never forget.”

Kyle, an analyst in the pharmacy benefits management industry, later enrolled in the School of Business MBA program at Redlands and is now just a few months from graduating.

Both Attls are members of the Whitehead Leadership Society, selected by their School of Business peers for their academic and leadership excellence. Kyle is happy to be following in his father’s footsteps.

“I know my dad is very proud of my accomplishments,” he says. “I just hope he knows I am just as proud of his accomplishments. I know I would not be anything close to who I am today if it were not for him.”


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