Dean Michael Graney-Mulholland Seventy Mile Solo Trek to Self Discovery

or How to Celebrate your 70th Birthday in Style

In September of 2016, Dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies at John F. Kennedy University, Michael Graney-Mulholland embarked on a 70-mile hike along the California Central Coast to celebrate her 70th birthday.

This unique style of celebrating milestone birthdays is not unusual for this vibrant figurehead. At age 50 she went back to school to change careers and 60 she celebrated by earning her doctorate degree.

“I wanted to do something to show I was still relevant and could still contribute. That I was physically viable,” shared the popular Dean.

For her seventieth birthday she decided to take celebration in a new direction. For a year Graney-Mulholland prepared for this epic 70-mile celebration of her life thus far by mapping out the route and practicing with her gear. With the help of her brother-in-law, an experienced backpacker, she planned out an easy 10-mile-a-day route to accomplish her goal in 7-days. What she wasn’t prepared for was an unexpected wrong turn on her first day, how this new experience challenged her in unforeseen ways, and the understanding she came away with of both herself and her students’ experiences.

A wrong turn on her first day lead to a grueling 30-miles in shoes that were not sufficiently broken in for that level of wear, causing the skin on her feet to blister and eventually give way to bloody sores, but despite this setback she persisted on with her goal.

“I set my concentration on the present moment because it’s the present that gets you to your goals. One step to another. One step to 100.”
“At first it was all survival focus. It was harder than I thought, but I wasn’t going to stop because I had committed to seeing this through. It’s not okay to quit because something is hard or inconvenient. So I set little goals, and little steps for myself,” shared Dean Graney-Mulholland.

“I set my concentration on the present moment because it’s the present that gets you to your goals. One step to another. One step to 100.”

With this mantra in mind, Dean Michael Graney-Mulholland ended up accomplishing her goal of hiking 70 miles in 5 days rather than the 7 she planned. “I’m telling everyone, it sounds so cliche, but you can do anything you set your mind to. Have little goals, work through the pain and discomfort and get out of your own way.”

“I think about our students and all they overcome and accomplish to achieve their goals and it’s very similar. It doesn’t always go as you planned, but you work through it.”

When asked what she had planned for her 80th she replied, “A career change. I’d like to go to Law School and work with the Baby Boomers on estate planning.” Two weeks after completing her hike, she began studying for the LSAT.