Ken Utzinger (MA ’94) calls himself a slow starter.
“In December 2019, 52 years after graduating high school, 31 years after my first bachelor’s degree and 25 years after my master’s degree from DU, I received my doctor of physical therapy,” writes the 71-year-old, who has retired three times and recently started a fourth career.
It took him years to hit his stride, and he has made mistakes along the way, but he has acquired some career wisdom that’s worth sharing. “It’s OK to make mistakes. Just don’t keep making the same mistake,” he says.
Utzinger’s career began in 1969 after he flunked out of Wyoming’s Casper College with a dismal 0.867 GPA. To avoid being sent to Vietnam, he joined the Navy, but was sent to Vietnam nonetheless as a radioman from 1971–72.
He stayed in the Navy for eight years, the last four as a recruiter. When he left active duty, he still didn’t know what he wanted to do. He found success selling computers in the early 1980s, but the work was hard, and the hours were long. As a single parent with a young daughter, Utzinger wanted a career where he didn’t rely on commissions. That’s when he decided to become a physical therapist.
“When I applied to the University of Colorado to the PT department, the first time I applied they said, ‘Ken, your GPA isn’t high enough.’ They turned me down,” Utzinger says. So, he went back to school to raise his GPA, and at the age of 40, he earned a bachelor’s in athletic training from what was then Metropolitan State College in 1988.
With his new degree in hand, he decided to get a master’s in exercise science. Admission to the CU Boulder program remained elusive, but a University of Denver professor with expertise in athletic amenorrhea convinced him to attend DU.