As long as we are alive we should be learning and growing.
All along, Elizabeth Scarbrough believed graduating from Bridgewater State was her destiny. She’d been accepted as a high school student living on Cape Cod, but life tossed a few curveballs her way.
The primary obstacle was the death of her father while she was attending Chatham High School.
Then life took over, and college was put on hold. She moved to Arizona in the late 1970s and got married. She began taking classes at Mohave Community College, majoring in English. Ms. Scarbrough put in a year and a half before life grew complicated again, with a divorce and the death of her sister.
While the dream of a college education still burned within, it would have to wait.
But things began looking up in the early 2000s when she was hired on campus as a part-time administrative assistant in the office of the Student Government Association. Her director at the time, Dr. Cindy Kane, encouraged Ms. Scarbrough to finish her long-held goal of earning a degree. So, in the spring of 2003, she enrolled part time at what was then Bridgewater State College as an English major, with a minor in art.
“I always had this sense that I was supposed to graduate from Bridgewater,” Ms. Scarbrough said.
However, many years of hard work were ahead. Night classes, homework, final papers, exams, art projects and more comprised her days. Then, in 2005, she was hired
as a full-time administrative assistant for the Master of Social Work program.
But, not long after, Ms. Scarbrough came to a realization. “I decided if I don’t go to school full time, I’ll never finish this degree,” she said.
She was able to devote two years to being a full-time student, moving her ever closer to that diploma. She was a student worker in the Academic Achievement Center and a writing fellow with Dr. Lee Torda, of the Department of English. During this time, her college career overlapped that of her son, Gabe, who graduated in 2014 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
When acquaintances learned that Ms. Scarbrough spent her nights and weekends cracking the books, often they would ask, “Why bother?” The answer was a no-brainer.
“The question made me think about whether or not we are worth investing in after we are past the standard college age,” she recalled. “I decided the answer was yes. As long as we are alive we should be learning and growing.”
In fact, being a post-traditional student had many advantages, Ms. Scarbrough said.
“I think people who come back when they’re older feel like they’re investing in themselves,” she said on a winter afternoon in her office in Harrington Hall, where she’s now the administrative assistant for the dean of the Louis M. Ricciardi College of Business. She added that taking classes later in life forced her to challenge herself and beliefs she had long held.
“It was mind-blowing how much I was thinking about these things,” she said. “It also helped me relate to the students I work with.”
As for the BSU students she met in her classes over the years, Ms. Scarbrough is effusive. “I was also extremely impressed with the students I was in class with, and I remain friends with many of them to this day,” she said.
In her office, Ms. Scarbrough is surrounded by the day-to-day elements of her job – memos, calendars, folders of work done and yet to be done. But you’ll also see signs of her life’s passions: artwork, photos of family and a handful of poetry books.
She graduated from BSU summa cum laude in 2012 and lives in Taunton with her husband, Mark. In addition to Gabe, the couple has another son, Luke.
The BSU diploma she received a half-dozen years ago represents more than just a lot of work and sacrifice. It signals a hard-won accomplishment Ms. Scarbrough can be proud of. “I wouldn’t give that up for the world,” she said.