news releases

2005.05.05 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.3502 - email: tkaldahl@mail.unomaha.edu

Mother and Daughter to Receive Degrees at Graduation

Omaha - Spring commencement at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is always a big deal. This year, more than 1,250 students will graduate on Friday, May 6. For two of students, the journey to a cap and gown was entirely a family affair.

Susan Rhodes, 61, started and stopped on the road of higher education beginning in 1961. UNO back then was a municipal university, Omaha University, with far fewer programs and colleges then it has today. Rhodes had to quit taking classes before getting a degree so she could begin raising a family. Periodically, she would come back to UNO and pick up a few courses, but never put together enough hours for a bachelor's degree.

One of Rhodes' children, Amie, also started and stopped before completing college.  Susan, who works in the Millard Public Schools central office, said she knew her daughter was smart and capable, but truly needed a university diploma to expand her prospects. In the fall of 2000, the pair signed up for a computer class at UNO together.

I went back to encourage her to continue with school," Susan said. Susan and Amie, 33, live together in a "three-generation home." Susan's mother, Elizabeth, is 87-years-old and lives with them, as well. "We owe her a lot for her love and encouragement," Susan said.

The pair took nearly all of their classes together and saved money by sharing textbooks. On May 6, they both will receive degrees in psychology.

"It sounds corny, but it's been good," Amie said. "She (Susan) has such a love for education. She makes me better."

While Susan will not be returning to campus next fall, Amie will. She plans to take classes to earn her teaching certificate. For the past four years, she has been a Millard Public Schools employee, too. Her time working as a paraprofessional for a fourth grade classroom at Hitchcock Elementary has given her a real focus on a career.  Susan's son, Brett, also has a career in education and works as a teacher at Kiewit Middle School.

"I'm hoping to student teach at Hitchcock," she said. "Ultimately, I want to be an elementary school counselor so I can use both the teaching and psychology."

Susan's goal from the beginning was simply to "get a degree before I retire."

Amie said she thinks it might be hard for her mother to stop going to classes. The pair touched on a lot of different areas--psychology, religion, gerontology--in five years. Amie will graduate with more than 160 hours.

We really enjoyed the Italian classes we had," Amie said. "It was hard, but our ‘professoressa,' Theresa Catalano, was wonderful.  We also want to thank our counselor from the College of Arts and Sciences, Debbie Burchard, for holding our hands all the way."

Susan had to convince her daughter to go through the May 6 commencement ceremony set for the Civic Auditorium. They plan on sitting next to each other, just like they did in classes, during the ceremony.

We've made so many friends," Susan said. "I will miss the campus."

          For more information, call (402) 554-3502.

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