Hodges University

Sarasota Sheriff's Office Lt. Earns Degree From International College

Port Charlotte resident Lt. Paul Marshall, 44, is among 371 International College seniors who will graduate on June 9 during the College’s 13th commencement ceremony.

Marshall, who works in the Support Services Bureau for the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office, earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and has been on the dean’s list three times since enrolling at International College in summer 2001.

Marshall will be joined on graduation day by three other Sarasota Sheriff’s Office deputies: Robert Pollack, 27, of North Port; Chris Butler, 31, of North Port; and Rhonda DiFranco, 46, of North Port. All earned bachelor's degrees in criminal justice.

Sheriff Bill Balkwill, who was invited by Marshall, will attend Sunday’s ceremonies in support of his staff.

“I’m a big believer in education. I push for education in my department,” Balkwill said. “Education helps build character. It makes them better leaders, offers them new ideas and shows them how to apply those new ideas to their jobs.”

After graduating from high school in 1975, Marshall joined the Seymour Police Department in Connecticut. In 1980, Marshall earned an associate degree and went back to school for another year in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Time and money prevented him from continuing.

Around that time, and during a trip to Florida, Marshall met Balkwill, then a Sergeant. Marshall was a DARE officer and had a keen interest in working with youth. That meeting eventually led to Marshall moving to Florida and joining the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office in 1989. The Sarasota Sheriff’s Office requires deputies to have a minimum of an associate degree.

When Marshall was promoted to Lieutenant, Balkwill encouraged Marshall to return to school to earn his bachelor’s degree. Marshall’s wife, Anita, also persuaded him to attend.

Marshall chose International College because the Criminal Justice program offered accelerated coursework that would allow him to finish his degree in one year.

“I was looking at the future of my career. I pushed myself because I wanted to get it done in a year,” said Marshall, who also is a trainer for the National Association of School Resource Officers, a national nonprofit training organization for school-based police and district personnel.

International College’s positive reputation is getting around. Several other deputies in the agency are enrolled or are planning on enrolling at the College, Marshall said.

“It was challenging going back to school after being away for so long. I didn’t get much sleep, devoted my weekends to schoolwork and got through it,” Marshall said, adding that his parents are flying in from Maine for the ceremonies. “I’m excited about graduation. I wish I hadn’t put this off for as long as I did.”
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