A Father and Veteran Fulfills His Lifelong Dream of Becoming a Gator via UF Online

While leading a fulfilling life of service to both his family and country, 32-year-old Alan Thompson held onto his lifelong dream of graduating from the University of Florida. Given life’s unpredictable twists and turns, Alan became a father, veteran, and business owner before his path led him to the Gator Nation. Four years after beginning his business administration degree through UF Online, Alan is now a Gator graduate.

Alan is currently the CEO and Owner of Stingray Branding—a marketing and branding company that offers web design, advertising, social media, and other marketing services. He is also a loving husband and father to his 11- and 14-year-old children. With his entire life and family in Charleston, South Carolina, Alan claims that his dream of becoming a Florida Gator wouldn’t have been possible without UF Online. Through his inspirational journey, Alan proves that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.


Ever since Alan was a young boy, he dreamt of attending the University of Florida and becoming a part of the Gator Nation. After graduating #8 out of 450 at his South Carolina high school, Alan had to put this dream on pause. “I’ve had a lifelong dream of being a Gator and graduating from UF, but that got derailed my senior year because I had a child and went into the military instead,” Alan explained. After graduation, he went on to serve in the United States Army for 6 years before transitioning into the Air Force Reserve, where he continues to serve to this day.

While serving in the military, Alan’s educational pursuits and thirst for knowledge never ceased. “I’ve never had more than 6 months at a time that I hadn’t been in school since I started kindergarten,” Alan mused. While receiving education through the military, Alan also earned a degree in web design from the International Academy of Design to fuel his passion for marketing. Even though he went on to start his own marketing business, his academic ambitions didn’t stop there.

Alan sought a structured way to help him manage and improve the business aspects of his company. He initially began his business degree journey at the College of Charleston but decided to leave after his first semester when he found out UF was offering an online business degree. “I saw that UF had launched UF Online,” Alan said. “At the time when I was originally looking at colleges 12 years ago, that wasn’t an option.” Upon realizing that his long-lost dream could become a reality once more, his desire to graduate from UF was reignited.

“It’s more than just a degree. Graduating from UF means that you’re a part of an alumni base that has multiple academic and business leaders in the world,” Alan explained what drew him to the Gator Nation. “You’re a part of something that’s much bigger than yourself.”


While attending the University of Florida is an exciting time for students, it’s not always an easy journey from start to finish. This is especially true for Alan, who had to balance a full work schedule while studying. Alan devoted 40-60 hours a week to his business, with some busier weeks taking up more than 60 hours of his time. Given his hefty workload, Alan often had to skip out on family time, like going to the beach or watching Christmas movies with his kids. “It’s a full family sacrifice to get through college,” Alan admitted.

Despite the difficulties of juggling multiple responsibilities, Alan’s family cheered him on throughout his academic journey. Alan accredits his academic success to his wife, who motivated him during the times he was tempted to quit. “My wife is the reason I’m graduating,” Alan said. When asked what advice he would offer to fellow parents considering getting an online degree, he recommends “having conversations with your kids and helping them understand why you’re doing it.” To achieve this himself, Alan frequently brought his kids to Gainesville to view the campus and attend sporting events.

As a father and dedicated student, Alan wanted to set a good example for his kids and teach them the value of hard work. Through his journey, he wanted to prove that “life doesn’t always go the way you want it to, but you’re able to overcome that.”


For Alan, the value of a UF education was immediate. As a business owner, Alan didn’t wait to start making changes to his business operations based on the information he acquired through his online courses. “As I’ve gone through each class, I’d implement at least one or two things every semester,” Alan said. These crucial changes could be felt throughout his company. “My staff has noticed changes from the time that I started at UF to now in the way I price things and manage projects.”

When asked what he looks forward to the most after graduation, Alan didn’t hesitate to say “sleep.” Along with his well-deserved rest, Alan hopes to travel, surf, and spend more time with his family. He’s also eager to continue implementing the valuable information he learned while earning his degree into his career.

“I can say from being a business owner and getting a business degree, I felt that the education was really impactful,” Alan affirmed. “I have a running notebook of probably 200 things to implement over the next couple of years.”

With graduation within reach, the University of Florida congratulates Alan on achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a Florida Gator. The entire Gator Nation is honored to have a hardworking father, veteran, and student join its ranks. We thank Alan for his service and wish him and his family happiness and success.


As the #1 Best Online Bachelor’s in Business, according to U.S. News & World Report 2021, the University of Florida’s business in administration degree prepares students for the growing business world. With the option to earn either a Bachelor of Science (BSBA) or Bachelor of Arts (BABA) in Business Administration, UF students can earn a nationally-ranked degree at an affordable cost. Courses taught by faculty from the Warrington College of Business prepare students for career paths in finance, marketing, human resources, and more. UF Online students can also minor in business administration while pursuing other majors. For more information about the business administration major, visit the UF Online degree page or register for one of our upcoming virtual information sessions.