23 May 2013

Terri's Doctoral Graduation!


Dr. Terri Oliver Steffes

I am so happy to report that I am now finished with my terminal degree.  I like saying that, TERMINAL DEGREE as it implies that no degrees can follow it.  I am 100% confident that I will not be pursuing any other degree.  One, I cannot justify any more college loans and two, from now on what I want to study in detail I will read about it using my personal time and it will be for pleasure!

My mom and sister drove from Marceline to attend the ceremony.  It was held on a Thursday, which meant very few people would be able to attend. I chose to go to the departmental ceremony as it is more personal.We walk across the stage and the department heads hood us with the traditional hood.  Our names are called and the title of our dissertations.  Since three of us worked on one dissertation, we each changed up the title a bit.  We all wrote personal papers, too, but those were not recognized.

Dr. Suzanne Wilson and Dr. Terri Oliver Steffes, missing Dr. Armand Spurgin
On Thursday we woke up and showered, and got dressed for the day.  I wanted some pictures from New Town so Bob and Tammi came out and took a few while mom got ready.  When mom was done, we took a few more and then headed to Saint Louis to go to breakfast at City Diner.  A great place to have breakfast anytime, but perfect for graduation!!

Mom and Tammi, who have PhDs in life.

Me and the other Dr. Steffes

After breakfast we met up with a photographer who took professional photographs of our cohort group.  Each of us came at our own time and took pics with family and friends that came.  The location was pretty, with architecture, trees, a fountain and Saint Louis  University sign and other little pockets of nice places to photograph.  After our individual pictures were done, then we did some group photos.  Those were fun!
Dr. Suzanne Hull, Dr. Allison Gohring, Dr. Della Bell, Dr. Laura Beeler, Dr. Beck Odneal and Dr. Tim Roth (and me, in the back)
We walked from the fountains to the Arena where we checked in and waited around for the ceremony to start.  I wanted to be sure to take it in and enjoy it.  I hung around with my cohorts, just chatting about everyday things.  I really have loved each of them so much.  They have contributed to my growth as a human and an educational leader and I owe each of them more than I can ever repay!

We were called to line up and of course, they had us in ABC order so we weren't really by our friends.  I guess that is ok, but this special moment wants to be shared with those that matter the most to us.  I did meet a couple of nice people, though and that is always worth it!  We came in to the sounds of bagpipes!  What an awesome way to begin!  Since this is a Catholic Jesuit institution, we prayed.  I am glad that prayer was a part of my graduation.

There were words, words I didn't hear, as I watched my friends go and get their hoods and recognition.  The smiles and joy on their faces were so special to see.  Bob captured many of them in photographs.  Then it was my turn!  Dr. Wood came to stand by me, chatting, asking if Bob was here.  She's a tiny thing, so I really had to squat down for her to be able to reach me!  She hugged me, wished me well, and off I went to receive an envelope with a letter in it.  I waved to Bob, mom and Tammi and went to sit for the remainder of the ceremony.

When it was over, I said some goodbyes, to Suzy, as she wasn't staying for the reception.  Many went to the Hill to celebrate, but I went with Bob, Mom and Tammi to Scottish Arms.  What a wonderful dinner!  Bob had flowers delivered to the restaurant for me!  It was a great way to sit back and relax a bit.  We drove home, Tammi and Mom left, and then Bob surprised me with a video made from family and friends who could not be with us to celebrate.  It was such a warm video, making me laugh and cry.  Bob was well aware I was sad that my friends and family could not celebrate with me.  I knew the choices I made so I was at peace with it but this video made everyone seem so close.  Thanks, Bob, for knowing me so well!

As I reflect back, I am so proud of myself for completing this degree with the obstacles that were thrown in my path from the very beginning.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer eight weeks before classes started.  I had a double mastectomy and hysterectomy and lymph node dissection two weeks after our first class, missed the second class but made it to the third. I had reconstructive surgery (twice) and only missed one class due to the superintendent's examination!  I didn't get my 4.0 that I strove for, but got As in all classes but one.  I am proud of myself for this accomplishment!

What's next?  I plan to use my knowledge to continue to give students the best education possible.  I hope to do that in public schools for awhile and then maybe teach teachers. Whatever I choose, I take with me all the mentoring, coaching, and friendships that I experienced during this time.  Thank you, all of you, for your encouragement, cheering, prayers and love. 

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