Graduate made most of his college years

Sunday, June 16, 2002

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Les Horton spent three hours at the gym every day and stayed up late every night.

He didn't always get to class on time.

When he studied abroad, he sometimes skipped his classes.

So what did all that get him, in five years of college?

Only eight bachelor's degrees.

Horton, who now lives in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, graduated magna cum laude from Truman State University last month with two degrees each -- a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science -- in business administration, economics and psychology. His haul also included degrees in French and Russian.

Officials at the Kirksville university know of no one else who has received as many degrees as Horton. And he did it on three hours of sleep a night -- one, if he had a test the next day.

"He has an unusual capacity for work," said Faith Beane, a Truman State professor who taught him Russian, one of the handful of languages Horton speaks. "Sleep is clearly not one of his habits."

Still, Horton is a study in balance.

He studied intensely in college. But he also went to movies, played cards with friends and hung out. He has lived in a handful of countries. He has a girlfriend.

And sometimes in college, he could not get to class on time.

"I could sit and watch the squirrels play for 10 minutes," he said.

A "typical" college day would begin about 6 a.m. Breakfast would mix with the next assignment due. He would read on his way to classes. He would take notes in class and, during lulls in the lecture, write assignments for other classes.

In the evening, he would go to the gym for three hours. Then a little downtime for dinner. At 9 p.m., he would start working. Between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., he estimated, he could crank out 30 to 40 pages of a term paper.

It was like walking with a stack of plates balanced on each hand, he said. "You can't stop to think about how you're doing it. You just have to keep moving."

Family members are proud of Horton, even if they are not sure from where all this came.

"He did it on his own. I wish I could take some credit for it," said his father, Barry Horton. "We just expected him to be a lawyer."

Actually, a law degree is in the plans, and so is a master's in business administration.

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