Ben Perkins '18

Criminal Justice Online Major
Security Manager at HSHS St. John's/ Military Veteran

Ben Perkins ’18 lived with his father in Greely, Colorado, after his parents divorced. As an 18-year-old high school graduate, Perkins was not interested in attending college. He had one interest – following his father’s footsteps and joining the military with the goal of becoming a paratrooper. Despite his father’s attempts to keep him from enlisting, Perkins joined the Army in 1985 and was stationed as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

After serving three years in Vicenza, Italy, and doing a tour in Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm, Perkins retired from the military and moved to Springfield, Illinois, where he took classes and became an EMT in 1994. At the same time, he began his law enforcement career as a patrol officer at Sangamon State University, now University of Illinois – Springfield. Perkins worked at the university until 1996 when he joined the Springfield Police Department.

Despite his budding career and civilian life, Perkins missed the comradery of the military and, in 1999, enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard where he was assigned as a combat medic with the Forward Support Medical Company at Camp Lincoln in Springfield. He worked several assignments and eventually became the Evacuation Platoon Sergeant.

These roles led to two separate deployments overseas. In 2004- 2005, Perkins served in Iraq as an advisor to Iraqi security forces and from 2009-2010 he served as a senior medic for all the police mentoring teams in southern Afghanistan. After injuries resulted in two separate spinal fusions, Perkins was medically retired from the Army after 19 years of service.

Throughout his second stint in the military, Perkins continued working with the Springfield Police Department. In 2000, he became a detective in the Crime Scene Services unit, describing his crime scene investigation career as “rewarding and haunting at the same time.”

Perkins and his wife, Tiffany, have been married since 2010, and they are the proud parents of a five year-old son, Brody, and 12-year-old daughter, Madelyn. Perkins also has another daughter, Elizabeth, who is now a 22-year-old pediatric nurse in Davenport, Iowa. Before Perkins had retired from the military, he intended to transfer his Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to Elizabeth so she could attend college for free. Due to a clerical error by the VA, which was not discovered until after Perkins had retired, Elizabeth was unable to take advantage of Perkins’ hard-earned benefits.

As a result, Perkins realized he was sitting on essentially a full-ride scholarship courtesy of his time served in the military. After looking at many online criminal justice programs, he decided to take advantage of his benefits and chose MacMurray College because the criminal justice major focuses on homeland security. In January 2014, Ben Perkins, 47 year-old military veteran of three combat tours, police detective, husband and father of three, was in the classroom for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Although Perkins felt he possessed superb time management skills, it took him a fair amount of time to balance school with his personal life. Describing the task of being a good father and husband, he said: “When the kids have to be at dance and the wife is at work, sometimes I have to sit in my truck using my laptop trying to get discussion posts completed.” It hasn’t always been easy on his children, especially Brody. “It’s hard to explain to your five year old why you can’t play with him as much because you have lots of homework.”

Adding his professional life into the equation compounded the challenge. “The difficulty is turning in quality work when I’m called in to work a homicide on Sunday and pushed hard on it until Tuesday morning,” Perkins observed. “Then I have to go home on little to no sleep and read two to three chapters before I can do my discussion posts by midnight Wednesday.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge was his decision to switch careers while working toward his bachelor’s degree. Perkins retired from the Springfield Police Department in 2017 after 21 years served and almost immediately became the security manager for HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. “I thought it was the perfect position to use my education from MacMurray College,” Perkins said. “Plus, changing careers at 50 seemed like the thing to do!”

Perkins embodies the modern online student – a working professional with years of career experience willing to make personal sacrifices to earn a degree. He is most thankful to have had supportive faculty who made his academic experience memorable. “I am appreciative of the instructors at Mac. They have challenged me. It has been a wonderful yet taxing experience. I am glad that I have taken it on, and I’m glad I did it with MacMurray!”