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Published: Monday, 8/12/2013 - Updated: 8 months ago

Dream of degree fulfilled at 89

Nurse tech at WWII Army base started college in 1945

BY ARIELLE STAMBLER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Evelyn Campbell, 89, talks with her former Lourdes University instructor, Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak, after receiving an associate of arts degree Monday at Otterbein nursing home in Perrysburg. Mrs. Campbell took art classes at Lourdes starting in 1987, after first starting college classes in 1945. Evelyn Campbell, 89, talks with her former Lourdes University instructor, Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak, after receiving an associate of arts degree Monday at Otterbein nursing home in Perrysburg. Mrs. Campbell took art classes at Lourdes starting in 1987, after first starting college classes in 1945.
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Evelyn Campbell started college in 1945.

It wasn’t until Monday night, however, that the 89-year-old Perrysburg resident received her diploma.

Her two sons and a former teacher gathered around her as David Livingston, president of Lourdes University in Sylvania, and Geoffrey Grubb, provost, awarded her an associate of arts degree from Lourdes at Otterbein Skilled Nursing & Rehab Neighborhood in Perrysburg, where she resides.

Craig Campbell, her youngest son, connected with his sister Cheryl on Skype at the event so she could see the ceremony too.

Wearing a Lourdes University jacket, Mrs. Campbell addressed the room. “I can’t quite think I’m worthy of this beautiful day,” she said.

She said she always dreamed of attaining a college degree. But her life’s twists and turns kept her from it for decades.

She graduated from Whitney High School in Toledo in 1942 and, during World War II, became a surgical nurse technician at Smoky Hill Army Base in Kansas.

After the war, she enrolled at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.

But 18 credits into a bachelor’s degree, she left school to marry her husband, Charles, the love of her life, her son said.

She wanted to raise a family.

Once she had put her three children through college, her thoughts returned to a degree of her own.

In 1987, she became an art student at Lourdes.

“She wanted a bachelor’s degree pretty bad,” her son said.

However, as Mrs. Campbell aged, illness kept her from attending class and her bachelor’s remained incomplete.

Recently, she asked her son to track down a friend from the University of Miami who had looked out for her during her college days.

In his search, Mr. Campbell learned from the University of Miami that his mother had enough credits to be considered an alumna.

He called Lourdes University to ask if his mother’s credits from Miami had ever transferred.

An alumni relations officer discovered that Mrs. Campbell had indeed transferred her credits and that meant she had completed enough coursework for an associate’s degree from Lourdes.

When Mrs. Campbell heard that the president and provost would present her with a diploma, she asked that her sculpture teacher from Lourdes, Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak, a professor of art there for many years, would be present.

“She believes Sister Jane Mary was probably the most influential person in her entire life,” Craig Campbell said.

Some of Mrs. Campbell’s sculpture from Sister Jane Mary’s class was on display at the ceremony, including a bust of her late husband.

Mrs. Campbell repeatedly praised Sister Jane Mary after receiving her diploma.

“When God calls you home, He’s going to whisper in your ear, ‘Well done,’” Mrs. Campbell said to her, clasping her hand and almost tearing up again.

“He’ll say the same thing about you,” Sister Jane Mary said.

She added that it was characteristic of Mrs. Campbell to direct praise toward someone else even when she deserved the spotlight.

Mr. Livingston and Mr. Grubb were happy to acknowledge Mrs. Campbell’s accomplishment.

“She has truly completed what she needed to do for the associate’s degree,” Mr. Grubb said. “This is a great opportunity for us to recognize the work she’s done and her desire to complete a college degree.”

Her children were all smiles, knowing that she was finally getting the diploma she’d always longed for.

“This is something she’s dreamed about forever, but she’s dedicated herself to raising a family and working,” Mrs. Campbell’s oldest son, Chuck Campbell, said.

He added: “It’s a very special day for her.”

Contact Arielle Stambler at: astambler@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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