When the 128 students walk the stage to receive their graduation diplomas at Glen Oaks Community College this Friday night, there is one determined person whose personal struggle, hard work, persistence and dedication has encompassed more than most.
Raymond F. Borgert’s story goes beyond the academic challenge to that of continuing to overcome and work through the effects of a serious stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side seven years ago.
A native of Bronson, Mich., Borgert left the area following high school graduation to pursue work in Florida. Although his initial plan didn’t materialize, he ended up working for a thoroughbred race horse farm. Initially, it was cleaning stalls and grooming the horses, but he soon moved into a foreman role, then barn foreman, assistant manager and eventually manager, where he was breeding stallions, foaling mares and doing sales preparation work. He also owned his own race horse.
“I fell in love with the work in spite of the fact that I never had any sort of attachment to horses prior to moving to the South,” said Borgert. His thoroughbred race horse career grew to over 25 years of experience.
But his whole life changed on June 19, 2006. Borgert had been hospitalized for a few days with flu-like symptoms, when he suffered a stroke as a result of a brain aneurysm. “There were no warnings — I was strong and in good health,” said Borgert.
“After seven weeks of rehabilitation at the University of Florida, I left the hospital in a wheelchair, and my doctors told me I would never walk again,” he said. His situation was compounded since he carries a blood clot in his knee, has a Greenfield filter in his leg to filter out the clots, and has three crushed discs.
“Maneuvering at home in my wheelchair was difficult. I was tired of it, and decided I was going to use a cane instead,” said Borgert.
And it was no cake-walk. Borgert’s sand driveway was a half-mile long. “I fell many times, but would get right back up and keep going,” he said. But after four weeks, Borgert went back to the hospital with cane in hand, and no wheelchair in sight. His doctors were in awe.
“My folks called and wanted me to come back home to Bronson,” said Borgert. “In spite of the physical strides I was making, I was going through a deep depression, so I came home in 2008. I took a year off and decided that I could do anything – my mind was real good.”
Education is considered great therapy for “rewiring” the brain, so he decided to go back to school to try a few college business courses. He enrolled at Glen Oaks in 2010.
“It was a slow start, going back to college,” said Borgert. “I started with only one class and needed a lot of development courses. Everyone made me feel welcome, but the younger crowd is very different today and it took some getting used to.
“Professor Ryno helped me a lot, especially through English, and Anne Cook helped me through Algebra and Math.”
Borgert received his first associate degree and certificate in management supervision in 2012. This week when he walks the stage, he will have his Associate Degree in General Studies.
What’s next? Borgert plans to take a little time off before enrolling in the Spring Arbor Organization Management program, which is held on the Glen Oaks campus.
Ultimately, Borgert’s desire is to head back to Florida to manage one of the thoroughbred race horse farms. “I lived in Florida long enough to get used to the weather in the South,” he said.
“It’s life – I have to deal with what I have – so if re-entering the race horse farm business doesn’t pan out, I’ll do something else that I love – rebuilding old cars.” Borgert has a 1972 Firebird and a 1976 Jaguar that he has restored.