- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

MILLERSVILLE, Pa. (AP) - Julia Dunn always loved being a student and never considered a path other than college.

The 24-year-old remembers that while she was growing up, her mom, Cathy, would tell her, “the one thing no one can take away from you is your college degree.”

It was something Cathy, 63, hadn’t accomplished herself. She started working on her bachelor’s degree in English in 1972 at Millersville University in Lancaster County. But life got in the way, as it sometimes does, and the degree went unfinished.

She worked for 40 years in the printing and graphics field, a career she loved, and a college degree remained a “loose end.” But when the printing industry hit hard times, and her job was eliminated, Cathy started thinking it might be time to tie up that loose end.

This weekend, both Cathy and Julia will accept degrees from Millersville.

Julia, of Red Lion, will receive a master’s degree in school counseling on Friday, and Cathy, of Springettsbury Township, will earn her bachelor’s degree in English on Saturday.

Cathy, who works full time as an office manager at Integrated Financial Resource Group in Springettsbury, began finishing her degree in 2010. Her first class, in literary theory, was more difficult than she’d expected, she said, and she was surrounded by students immersed in literature.

Her classmates treated her as one of them, she said, and her employers were “wonderful” in being flexible when she needed to double courses or take some time to prepare for exams and papers. Her husband, Norm Lightner, was her biggest cheerleader, offering support in moments when she debated whether to keep going.

Julia had always admired her school counselor from elementary school and would shadow her during career days, she remembered. It led her to pursue a psychology degree from Lebanon Valley College, where she graduated early, in December 2011.

She applied to a number of graduate schools. Millersville, the only school counseling program she considered, offered her its one graduate assistantship.

The school, which is near where she grew up, just felt right. So she started classes in May 2012. Next, Julia will complete a yearlong internship in a school setting before she’s certified and ready to take a job as a school counselor.

In different programs and buildings at Millersville, mom and daughter didn’t cross paths much.

But last semester, they happened to end up in the same building for classes on the same night. Soon, Julia and all her classmates were waving to Cathy each night as she passed their classroom window.

Cathy is excited to finally close a chapter that opened 42 years ago.

“I’m walking around in the clouds,” she said.

Julia said her own excitement is more for her mom’s achievement.

“I just think it’ll be really cool - no one can take that away from her now,” she said.





Information from: York Daily Record, https://www.ydr.com

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