Friday, June 08, 2001

UC grad gets the picture

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Now that he's going to be an addiction counselor, Rick Ridenour laughingly calls his former alcohol and drug abuse “30 years of field work.”

        It started in sixth grade, the Gomer, Ohio, native recalled.

        “Whatever you had, if you told me to get high, I'd do it.”

        Not anymore.

Rick Ridenour
        Except for a brief relapse, Mr. Ridenour has been clean for more than five years.

        Today, Mr. Ridenour will get his degree in addiction studies with top honors - summa cum laude - at the University of Cincinnati's 1:30 p.m. all-campus commencement in the Shoemaker Center. He also will be a commencement marshal in a distinctive red academic gown, chosen by the College of Evening and Continuing Education in part for his 3.93 grade point average.

        “He's brilliant,” said Lawrence Anthony, director of UC addiction studies.

        Mr. Ridenour, 43, of Lima shares an additional distinction. He is among UC's first six graduating seniors to earn four-year degrees by video-conferencing.

        Sitting with them will be a full house for the first time in years, all there to hear Bill Cosby give the commencement address.

        Mr. Ridenour's turnaround began when an arrested buddy cut a deal by directing cops to the marijuana patch Mr. Ridenour had cultivated for 20 years in a corn patch.

        Caught with a dozen plants, he chose rehab over prison.

        Three months of rehab, however, reintroduced him to education, he said. But for decades of boozing, dope smoking and pill-popping, “I might have been a rocket scientist today.”

        In 1999, he earned a two-year degree in applied science and human resources with a 3.87 grade point average at Lima Technical College.

        Confident that Mr. Ridenour could do more, an adviser encouraged him to enroll in UC addiction studies/distance learning program. It allowed him to remain in Lima, working with other addicts and alcoholics.

        The UC program — which has expanded to about 50 students statewide — relies on video conferencing, in which classes meet at nearby community campuses via closed circuit television.

        They even took tests at the six cooperating community colleges.

        Mr. Ridenour said he will go to work after graduation full-time at Lima's St. Rita Medical Center addiction services, one of the places he volunteered in the past few years.


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- UC grad gets the picture
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