Fowler fulfills promise of graduating from college: 'It's never too late'

May 9th, 2024

Nerves began to overtake former Major Leaguer as he approached Penn State University’s Bryce Jordan Center to keep a promise that he made to his parents almost 20 years ago.

“I told my parents, ‘Look, all I want to do right now is play baseball,’” the 38-year-old recalled in a phone interview with “My mom was a school teacher and so I ended up promising that I’d go back to school when I was done playing.”

He fulfilled that promise on May 4, graduating from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in organizational and professional communication.

Dexter Fowler prepares to join his fellow Penn State graduates. (photo via Rayni Shiring)

Fowler and his parents came to a compromise before he was drafted at 18 in the 14th round of the 2004 MLB Draft -- 140th overall -- by the Rockies right out of high school. He spent the next 14 years of his MLB tenure playing for the Rockies, Astros, Cubs -- whom he helped win the 2016 World Series championship -- and the Cardinals before he made his final stop with the Angels in 2021.

“Baseball has always been just the beginning for me, and earning my degree was a promise I made to my family that I am proud to fulfill,” Fowler said earlier this week in a press release.

During his stint with the Angels, the 2016 All-Star sustained an ACL tear that limited him to just seven games. He decided that was the time to begin his college education online through Penn State World Campus.

Dexter Fowler waits to hear his name called at Penn State's graduation. (photo via Rayni Shiring)

“It was great because I could do everything online,” Fowler said. “I could do [the classes] through Zoom and Canvas. It was great that I could do it remotely.”

The most challenging part of the process for Fowler was the workload and having to balance his assignments while also being a dad, a husband, a baseball analyst and a businessman.

Throughout it all, his wife, Darya, helped him schedule time to get his classwork done and find a quiet environment when needed.

Fowler said he does not regret starting college later in life because the lessons that he learned playing Major League Baseball helped him in his classes. It taught him to understand the value of his education.

Dexter Fowler takes in his graduation ceremony at Penn State. (photo via Rayni Shiring)

“When you’re just coming out of high school, you don’t really know what path you want to take,” Fowler said. “Later in life you kind of have your path. It’s just equipping you with more tools to better your goals.”

His efforts in class did not go unnoticed. One of his professors nominated Fowler to be a student marshal at graduation -- guiding fellow graduates during the ceremony. He was honored to be among the few chosen and was also recognized with a special tassel given to the student marshals.

Dexter Fowler shows off his student marshal tassel. (photo via Rayni Shiring)

The former center fielder tried his best to keep his graduation a secret from his parents in an effort to surprise them closer to the ceremony, but he was unsuccessful.

“I got all the way through December last year and I ended up having to tell them,” Fowler said. “I asked them what they were doing in May because that’s when my college graduation is and they were like ‘Are you serious?’”

With his parents watching proudly from the stands, Fowler walked across the stage to receive his diploma. His wife and daughters were unable to make the ceremony, but they supported Fowler via livestream.

Dexter Fowler poses in front of the stage at Penn State's graduation ceremony. (photo via Rayni Shiring)

“[My daughters] had a dance competition so they couldn’t be there,” he said. “They were tearing up, crying.”

Armed with his new bachelor’s degree, Fowler is eager to implement the skills and knowledge he acquired in school in order to help him develop his career as an entrepreneur. Most importantly, he wants his daughters and others to know it’s never too late to go to college and the importance of keeping promises.

“It’s never too late to do anything in life,” Fowler said, “and nobody can ever take away education from me.”