“Getting my degree from RCC made a huge difference in my life. It was one of the best things I’ve done.” says Rhea Stickley (pronounced “Ray”), Class of 1988. A self-described Army brat, the now 70-something says she “grew up everywhere and experienced different cultures from place to place.” From long days spent outside in Colorado then in Maryland and Pennsylvania, her childhood was a contextual mixed bag of experience. By the time Rhea reached young adulthood her family had settled in the east where she eventually married and began a family of her own. She found gainful employment doing secretarial work.
As time passed, Stickley’s marriage dissolved making way for Howard, the love of her life. Rhea met Howard in a small town in Maryland. He was an engineer and she was a secretary, both in the midst of divorces. They became friends and their love soon flourished. Included in this next happy chapter for Rhea would also be a major career promotion, big adventure, and attending Rappahannock Community College.
Need for Speed
One day as she and Howard were riding their motorcycles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Howard recognized Rhea’s need for speed and later encouraged her to race motorcycles competitively. She took his advice, and by 1986 she was National #3 in her class in motorcycle road racing. Taking her Formula 3, Honda 125, 2-stroke to speeds of up to 140 mph, Stickley savored the thrill and enjoyed the competition.
Around the same time, Rhea was promoted from secretary to an entry level IT position at Dahlgren (King George County, Virginia) where she and Howard now worked. She enrolled in classes at RCC’s Warsaw campus to pursue a two-year degree that would propel her career forward. Graduating with an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in 1988, Rhea was now officially working in Computer Configuration Management and had increased her annual salary by $10,000.
She lists one of her greatest accomplishments in life as being her ability “to get another job” and move up from the secretarial position. Involved in computer code quality control, Stickley says she was “honored to participate in important Navy programs, such as Tomahawk and Aegis.”
Keep on Racing
Her larger income made a huge difference in Rhea and Howard’s quality of life. They were afforded the opportunity to travel, continue to race motorcycles, go on adventures and enjoy a comfortable retirement.
Rhea still likes to get in the wind these days. If the weather is just right, and she’s in the mood, she’ll take “the Trike,” a three-wheeled Harley Davidson that she inherited from Howard two years ago when he passed. Sometimes she’ll take it to do the grocery shopping, other times just out for a spin but always with appreciation for freedom, for love and for the opportunity to live and enjoy another day by making the most of it.
Contributing writer: Jennifer Rose Bryant, RCC Class of 2020
Rappahannock Community College
Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula | Virginia