Rosa Parks. Barack Obama. Patrick O’Shea. All three are trailblazers, yet the latter has not yet a household name.
Patrick O’Shea had a normal upbringing. His father, Richard, owns a small restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska, where Patrick grew up, and his mother, Betsy, was a housewife, staying home to raise Patrick and his two brothers.
“I just knew Patrick was destined to change the world,” said Betsy O’Shea. “He was always a little bit different, choosing to light strange-smelling fires in his room instead of playing football with the other boys.”
In high school, Patrick O’Shea was a blip on the radar screen, barely remembered by any of his teachers. He never produced a startling eloquent essay, nor was he particularly proficient in mathematics or science. But he was persistent and graduated in 2004, shortly after being accepted to WNCC.
“We were so proud of him,” said Patrick’s older brother James, now a police officer. “No one from our family had ever gone to college before, and we really felt that he was breaking down barriers.”
But Patrick’s efforts didn’t stop there.
While enrolled, Patrick skipped most of his classes for the first few years, trying to decide which major to pick while drifting aimlessly through life.
“I didn’t really see the point in anything,” says Patrick. “Everything seemed so meaningless. Then, I took a class in existentialism and I gained some clarity: everything is meaningless! Once I realized that, it was only logical for me to continue my studies in philosophy.”
In 2008, Patrick O’Shea graduated from Western Nebraska Community College with a degree in philosophy after completing 120 credits and smoking more than 40 pounds of weed. And in July of 2010, Patrick O’Shea did what no one before him could: he became the first philosophy major to land a job, working as a car salesman in Omaha.
“He’s really an inspiration for all of us,” said Nicholas Zwerner, a philosophy major at Orange County Community College in New York. “People see that you’re different from them and they don’t respect you. But now, one of us made it through, and hopefully it’ll make people realize that philosophy majors are people too.”