Daughter Backs Mother’s Four-Decade Pursuit for Degree

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Brenda Evans graduated high school in 1964 and planned to go to college and become an English teacher.

A scholarship seemed to seal the deal. “I always had a talent for writing and understanding literature,” Evans said. “But I got married and did not take the scholarship. I had my beautiful children over the next few years and the dream of going to college seemed to get further and further away.”

The birth of her daughter pushed aside those dreams. But not forever. Four decades later, Evans’ career goal is coming true — with financial help from her first born.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature, Evans will cross the Lumpkin Center stage with other CSU College of Arts and Letters graduates during the second of the two spring commencement exercises, at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 10.

College of Education and University College degree recipients also will participate in the afternoon ceremony. The morning ceremony will recognize graduates from the colleges of science and business. Overall, about 700 graduates will be recognized, and retiring CSU President Frank Brown is the keynote speaker for both exercises.

Evans’ five children plan to gather from various parts of Florida and Georgia to join their mother for the occasion.

The pursuit started taking shape in 1989 as Evans, a newly single parent, started a home daycare service. While experiencing success with the venture, she never lost hope of going to college and entered Gordon College’s nursing program. “The early curriculum included English literature classes that fed my soul, she said. It was like a very bright light had come on in my mind, and soon I had changed my major to English.”

She eventually enrolled in CSU’s English program. However, obstacles awaited. A commute from Barnesville, coupled with family crisis, took a toll on her as a student and led to her dropping classes. “My transcript reads like a train wreck, but when you are a mother, daughter, sister and caretaker, you have responsibilities that must come first.”

Determined to finish her degree, she moved to Columbus.

Working to support herself and youngest son, she was able to take just a couple classes per semester, until daughter Melody McCoy, 42, of Jasper, Fla., “offered to pay for me to finish college and help with other expenses,” she said. “Until now, I felt like I was alone on this journey, but my children have been watching all along.”

McCoy said she has played only a small part and believes her mother’s persistence and determination have made this dream a reality. “She has worked so long and been so persistent,” she said. “She’s so close, and I just wanted to be able to see her finish. I’m so proud of her determination.”

- Thanks to her daughter, Evans plans to begin teaching high school English and pursue certification next fall and “pass on the thrill of reading and writing to another generation.” First, she will participate in CSU’s May 30-June 27 Spanish language immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico. “My daughter has kindly helped pay these expenses as well,” she said.

Evans’ spark of hope to educate others has grown into a raging fire, and she credits her CSU English professors and others for helping her:

• Chair Barbara Hunt, who “has always been an inspiration and whose guidance is invaluable.”
• Jim Owen, who “has always been a positive influence, as he is with all of his students. He has encouraged me with insightful and friendly feedback on my work and his classes have opened for me an amazing appreciation and knowledge for literature.”
• Josh Eyler for bringing medieval studies alive

Evans said she hopes all of her children will be able to attend her graduation. In addition to Melody, and 13-year-old Chandler, Evans’ other children are Travis, 36, of Thomaston; Clarissa, 34, of Zebulon; and Amanda, 27, of Live Oak. Fla. “All my children have supported me in various ways,” she said. “It will mean so much to have them here.”

For others graduating and those just getting started, Evans offers words of wisdom. “I would definitely encourage anyone to follow their dreams. A person should never give up on reaching a goal; you never know from where or when help will arrive.”

A live Webcast of graduation ceremonies can be viewed online and also will be shown in a Lumpkin Center classroom. For more information, call 706-507-8800 or go to http://graduation.colstate.edu.