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Mothers finish EWU degrees simultaneously with children

Austin Long and his mother, Ann Long, are both graduating from Eastern Washington University this Saturday. (Dan Pelle)
Austin Long and his mother, Ann Long, are both graduating from Eastern Washington University this Saturday. (Dan Pelle)

Mothers and their children often share life events such as birthdays and holidays and family celebrations. Still, it’s somewhat unusual for them to share the same college graduation day.

On Saturday, Ann Long and her son Austin Long will be graduating together as members of Eastern Washington University’s class of 2012.

“My first year of college was in 1969, but then life started happening,” said Ann Long, who served on the Central Valley School District board for 10 years. “I guess it took me 40 years to get my AA.” Ann Long transferred from Spokane Falls Community College to EWU in January 2010.

Austin Long followed a more conventional schedule: he enrolled at EWU in 2007 and will be graduating with a degree in music education.

An accomplished saxophone player, Austin Long first studied saxophone performance for two years, but then discovered he wanted to do something else – or more.

“I thought about engineering, but then I’d have to start all over,” said Austin Long. “Then I spent a quarter without doing music and I just couldn’t stand that. That’s when I decided on music education.” Austin Long hopes to land a job as a musician on a cruise ship once he graduates.

The Longs aren’t the only ones who are making graduating from EWU a family event this year: Jana Bowman, 52, is graduating at the same time as her daughters Christina Bowman, 24, and Lachelle Bowman, 29.

Jana Bowman said she first attended college when she was younger, and then took a class here and there in the ’80s and ’90s, but she kept putting off finishing her degree.

“Finally I decided to stop listening to the negative voices in my life and to not put it on hold any longer,” said Jana Bowman, whose degree is in children’s studies. “I am an adult, I can do this now.” Jana Bowman hopes to land a job as a children’s advocate.

Christina Bowman is graduating with a dual degree in English and philosophy, and her sister Lachelle Bowman is getting a degree in business administration.

“We haven’t had a single class together,” said Jana Bowman. “We have had some of the same teachers – but even the girls haven’t had any classes together.”

Ann Long will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in children’s studies and educational psychology, and she plans to take a year off to work before returning for a master’s degree.

“I really want to be a children’s counselor, maybe work at a school or be someone the school will refer children to,” said Ann Long, who rarely saw her son on campus and never had the same instructor but did have a few mutual classmates.

“I mostly spent my time in the music building and she was always somewhere else,” said Austin Long, who recently finished up student teaching at Shaw Middle School.

Ann Long said she had to be careful what stories she shared in her classes, making sure embarrassing baby stories would not get back to her son.

Jana Bowman said the support of her two daughters helped her when classes were challenging.

“After so many years of not going to school, everything had changed a lot,” said Jana Bowman. “The Internet is here, and things are done on the computer – it’s very different. But I never wanted to quit.”

Like Ann Long, Jana Bowman enjoyed her time at EWU, where she said teachers and professors are accommodating to students who have full lives off campus.

“They really work with the students and listen to you,” said Jana Bowman. “It’s been a real outstanding experience for me.”

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