Thirty years and 100 flights: This graduate says it was worth the journey

May 17, 2023

There are super-commuters who drive for hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Living far from where they work or go to school, they plan their lives around rush hours and delays.

Then, there’s Hatcher Parnell.

Twice a week, Parnell rises before 5 a.m. in Whittier, about 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. He takes a quick shower, hops in his car and drives 35 minutes to the Long Beach airport. He breezes through TSA precheck and, with coveted “A group” boarding status, claims a seat near the front of the morning Southwest Airlines flight bound for Oakland.

Parnell knocks out some course readings on the 45-minute flight before dashing off the plane and subjecting himself to the mercy of BART. If all goes according to plan, he steps onto the UC Berkeley campus just in time for his 10 a.m. discussion section on the future of nuclear energy.

“It’s a sprint,” Parnell said. “I use every minute.”

When — if — things are on time, he gets back home to his wife and two children around 10 p.m.

It’s a grueling academic arrangement, even by super-commuter standards. But for Parnell, who turned 50 in April, it’s a welcome opportunity to close a chapter of his life that he started writing three decades ago.

Read about Hatcher's incredible journey obtaining his sociology degree at the link below >

Berkeley News