Since it sounds like you want to be a hands-on technical expert, I believe the combination of strong certifications (and the CCIE certainly counts in that regard) plus significant work experience will be more conducive to meeting your stated career goals than pursuing an IT degree.
That said, you should also research prospective employers carefully; some employers do indeed require candidates to meet certain minimum academic levels of attainment. I myself once qualified for a programming job with a large oilfield services company in the 1980s because in addition to 5 years of experience I also had a master's degree in another field (anthropology). As long as you don't find yourself competing for a position in that kind of environment, you should do just fine.
Good luck in your future efforts,
This was first published in September 2002