Graduation on Saturday for one Spokane family demands a three-fold celebration.
Carol Anderson, her daughter and grandson will all be donning caps and gowns. Anderson, 72, and Heather Edwards, 51, both completed master’s degrees, while Grant Edwards, 23, finished a bachelor’s in computer science.
“It was certainly nothing we had planned,” Anderson said. She had taken a slow but steady three-year path for a master’s in teaching English as a second language.
“I knew Heather was in a program and taking one course at a time. With Grant, I said, ‘By the way, when are you graduating?’ And then realized Grant was finishing. All of a sudden, we said, hey we’re all graduating the same day – like surprise. That was only a few months ago.”
Edwards agrees the shared accomplishment just happened to line up.
“Yeah, totally coincidental,” said Heather Edwards. She previously completed a EWU master’s in adult education and teaches college prep at SCC.
“I like learning new things,” Edwards said. “Working at Spokane Community College, there is a state waiver program where they allow you to take one class per quarter for free. I thought, why not? This particular degree is offered in Spokane at their (EWU’s) downtown location in the evening.”
Both Anderson and her grandson had to trek to Cheney for courses.
“I was barely aware my grandma was going to Eastern,” joked Grant Edwards. “I bumped into her on the bus every now and then.”
He admits being engrossed in a heavy academic schedule, and he was unsure even a year ago whether he’d be able to complete all of his required coursework by now.
“My plan is to seek gainful employment in software development,” he said, although graduate school is on the table, too.
“I’m happy to see my grandma and my mom pursuing individual areas of study and furthering themselves.”
This isn’t the first time family members have finished up studies at Eastern. Heather Edwards said one brother and her dad are EWU graduates.
Carol Anderson, a Spokane native, finished her undergraduate degree at EWU in general studies in 1990. By 1999, she got her first master’s degree in leadership studies through an external program of Azusa Pacific University that offers summer courses and correspondence work.
Anderson completed her studies while working as a missionary with husband, Neil Anderson, in Papua New Guinea. The couple served for 35 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators, working with the Folopa Tribe to translate the Bible into their language.
Edwards and her siblings spent much of their years growing up in a remote village, and she began as a child teaching young girls from the village how to read and write in their own language.
“When I was quite young, 10 or 11, I asked my dad to build me a school, and he did so,” said Edwards, who was home-schooled and later finished her education at boarding school. Returning to the village often during school breaks, she’d pick up teaching the girls again.
After completing high school, Edwards returned to the U.S. and got her bachelor’s degree in English literature from California State University at Long Beach.
Edwards said she has role models in both her mother and grandmother, June Dalzell, as far as life-long learning. Graduating on the same day as her son and mom takes on special meaning.
“I’m super-excited about my son graduating; he’s taken a really difficult degree,” she said. “I think it’s important to be constantly role-modeling to my kids with life-long education and the possibilities of advancing via education.
“It’s also fun to do this with my mom. What goes through my mind a lot when I think about doing this with my mom, and she’s in her 70s, is that these notions we have about when you retire and stop doing things are just changing radically based on our health and longevity.
“I’m always thinking when I’m her age, I’m going to be a lot like her.”
Her grandmother continued to learn, taking piano and painting lessons when she was in her 80s. She played golf and remained active.
“I want to be like that, and I think my mother is the same way.”
Since returning full-time to Spokane in 2009, Anderson has taught at Moody Bible Institute of Spokane and at the Felts Field site of Moody Aviation.
At Moody in Spokane, she taught students in an intercultural studies program, including a course called Teaching Second Language Acquisition. More students were interested in that course, and Anderson said she realized it would help to gain more knowledge herself.
“I realized it would be a good idea to go and find out more, so I signed up for the course at Eastern on Teaching English as a Second Language, but in order to do that, I had to join the graduate degree program. Once I did that I thought, well, I’m here. I might as well get the degree.”
But she took it slowly around her Moody work. “It was a two-year program, but I did it in three years because I was working too and decided not to go whole hog into it.”
Although Moody’s Spokane campus closed this year, its local faculty are working on opening another school at the site called Great Northern University. Anderson hopes to teach there by this fall.
Moody Aviation training program will continue to operate in Spokane, and Anderson expects to keep teaching at that location, including a class on intercultural communication.
With a three-generation celebration dinner planned this weekend, it does feel special, Anderson said.
“I could just graduate, and that in itself would be special, but the fact that we’re doing this together, it sort of feels like an academic bonding. To me, it’s really exciting that we’re doing it all together.”
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