Alumni have many paths to attending Phoenix College (PC). Some came straight from local high schools, while others followed a winding path to college later in life in pursuit of new skills or a career change. Anthony Irby ’99, on the other hand, registered at Phoenix College to completely reset his life and find renewed hope and purpose.
A veteran of both Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Irby bounced around from Phoenix to Los Angeles, pursuing dreams and trying to find his way with a return to civilian life. As with many veterans, the stark change between military action and a quieter home front was not an easy transition. He desperately needed something to set him on the right path to a hopeful future.
Hitting Rock Bottom Before Rising
He landed back in Phoenix and, for a time, found himself homeless. It was at that time that Irby determined to turn his life around by going to college. He registered at Phoenix College and quickly immersed himself in student life and his studies.
He instantly connected with the faculty and students and found a home at PC, actively engaging in college activities. As the President of the Black Student Union (BSU), he led the way (along with faculty advisor Dr. Camilla Westenberg) to creating the Living Legend Display at the Fannin Library on campus. He gave back to the school by hosting fundraising cookouts for the BSU club and raising awareness. Irby even dabbled in theatre and performed in a few plays at John Paul. Irby took general studies courses and dreamed of becoming a screen writer.
Getting to college every day wasn’t easy. Irby didn’t have a vehicle so rode his bike back and forth from home, Phoenix College, and his three jobs. He was a work study student in administration and spent time making helping fellow veterans log their hours for benefits. He then split his time between employment at the Herberger Theatre and the new AMC theatre downtown. Irby credits his slim physique at that time to all the miles he covered on his little bike.
Phoenix College became the steady foundation for Irby to build his future. Like the college’s namesake, Irby was able to rise from the ashes and become reborn with renewed meaning for his future. After graduation, Irby enrolled at Arizona State University – West Campus started working at the Veteran’s Affairs Office in Phoenix, helping fellow veterans find their way and access needed support programs.
A Hero Once More
Missing the camaraderie that comes with military life, Irby joined with the National Guard. After the events of 9/11, he was once again called to active military maneuvers in Iraq.
Returning from this now third tour of duty, Irby came back to Phoenix and continued his career with Veteran’s Affairs, this time as the homeless veteran outreach coordinator. Irby is still there to this day, advocating for veterans in the community and throughout the state of Arizona.
He was recently awarded for his service at the 2017 Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on October 27, 2017. The ceremony recognizes and honors Arizona veterans who have honorably served their country and who continue to serve and inspire fellow citizens with civic deeds.
Words of Wisdom
When asked what advice he would give to struggling students or alumni, Irby asks them to “look into your core – analyze and find yourself. Plan out your ideas for the future – journal it. Search out where you are weakest and make it a strength. For example, my weakness was speaking to people so I joined college clubs and forced myself into situations where I had to speak and be heard. When it’s hard, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Phoenix College supports veterans through its Veterans Services Office in the Hannelly Center on campus. The office provides comprehensive services to veterans seeking academic and enrollment support to help meet their career goals.