William Kirk had been waiting for Friday.
The 28-year-old Putnamville Correctional Facility inmate receives an Associate's Degree from Indiana State University Friday at the facility's Graduation and Recognition Ceremony.
Kirk said he had been an inmate at the facility since 1998 and had been studying toward his degree since 2004.
"This feel like it's history," Kirk said. "It gets me close to my goal."
Kirk, who said he'll hopefully be released in one month, said his goal is to continue his education upon release.
"This feels nice," Kirk said.
Kirk was one of 173 inmates that received diplomas of various kinds Friday at the facility in front of family and friends.
"We've been preparing this for a couple of months," Putnamville Correctional Facility Executive Assistant Jim Ebey said. "It's a big event. This is a privelege."
Ebey said the facility was prepared for an estimated 600 family and friends to attend Friday's graduation. Of the 173 gradutes, approximately 60-63 received General Education Diplomas, while 50 earned vocationsl certificates from the institution.
Ebey added nearly 60 inmates received Associate's or Batchelor's Degrees from ISU or Ivy Tech and two receives Associate's Degrees from Indiana University.
"I wouldn't say this is as good as a release, but it's pretty darn close," Ebey said. "This is a success story. It may be a turning point."
J. David Donahue, Commissioner of the Indiana Dept. of Corrections was the guest speaker at Friday's graduation. He said he was excited for the inmates.
"When you leave the Dept. of Corrections, you'll have two choices," he said. "One is to create a new life and the other is to return to the other life.
"I hope you take advantage of this. I'm excited about what you have accomplished and equally excited about you moving forward."
Donahue said Friday's visit to Putnamville was his first.
"I'm humbled by the devotion the employees bring to the table everyday," he said. "And my hat's off to all the family and friends that are here today."
Donahue closed his speech by telling the inmates they were holding their own future in their hands.
"You're holding the answers to your future in your hands," he said. "I wish you all the best of luck."
Putnamville Supervisor of Education Warren "Bud" Fulk said the 173 graduates was the most the facility has ever had.
Fulk has been an instructor in the prison system since 1993 and has been a teacher for 43 years.
"We use our schools just as much as we can," Fulk said.
PCF Culinary Arts Teacher Penny Clevenger said her department prepared the feast inmates, family and friends helped themselves to after the graduation.
"We only worked abou two days getting things done," said Clevenger, who is also a certified chef.
"They told us to plan for 580."