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Husband, wife graduate together

Nontraditional students are example it's never too late to earn your degree

10/1/2013, 11:04 a.m.
Around August of 2007, Darlene read an article in the local newspaper, “The Vindicator,” about a man over 60 years ...
Darlene and Harold Brown

It was a special summer commencement at Youngstown State University (YSU), where husband and wife Harold and Darlene Brown both received degrees. Darlene, 56, earned her bachelor’s degree in social work, while her husband, Harold, 67, earned his associate degree in social work. They had enrolled together at YSU in 2008.

The Browns moved from Cleveland to Youngstown in April of 2006. Around August of 2007, Darlene read an article in the local newspaper, “The Vindicator,” about a man over 60 years of age completing his studies at YSU. Darlene suggested to Harold that this may be something he should do. After gathering information from two YSU students, they both decided to apply for admission. They decided to take General Studies classes their first two semesters to see how they would fare. After getting good grades the first two semesters, they looked for a major to select. They both decided to major in Social Work.

After the completion of her spring 2009 semester, Darlene had a complete right knee replacement. After the completion of her 2010 spring semester she had a complete left knee replacement. On both occasions, she went back to YSU at the beginning fall semester without taking any time from her studies. Though qualifying as a student with disabilities, Darlene walked to each class, many times in pain, and never asked for wheel chair assistance.

While at YSU, Darlene made the Dean's List three times; received the Mary Ferry Scholarship twice; received the Mary Zetzer Scholarship once and has been inducted into four Scholastic Societies: The Golden Key Society, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), Sigma Alpha Lambda and this year she was inducted into Alpha Kappa Mu.

She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and has worked the past two and one-half years with the Student Social Work Association. She has done volunteer work at Campus Health Care Center, the Dorothy Day House, the Salvation Army, local church food banks and did her internship at the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley.

Darlene, with her physical ailments and her low G.P.A. (1.90) at the start of her college career, finished with a 3.8 G.P.A. in her major of Social Work and a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.4. This is not bad for a 56-year-old, non-traditional student.

Harold made the Dean's list on two occasions, as a member of the National Association of Social Workers; as a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), Sigma Alpha Lambda and worked with the Student Social Work Association at YSU. Harold decided to pursue an Associate in Social Work (A.A.S.). He could have graduated in December of 2012, but he and his wife started together and he wanted to finish together. So he took three extra classes during this past spring semester. Harold started with a 2.41 G.P.A. and finished with a 3.32 G.P.A.

The Browns realize that their success at YSU, as older, non-traditional students, was not due to their efforts alone. They both put in the study time needed and went straight through the four and three fourths years it took to graduate. Darlene, with a BSW in Social Work, and Harold, with an AAS in Social work. They first want to thank God for His help and comfort. Next the staff of YSU for their guidance help, support and encouragement over the years.

The Browns have been honored to become YSU “surrogate parents” on campus to many students, regardless of race.

They hope reading this story will encourage the young, as well as the non-traditional students of all ages, to go to college, and with much prayer, hard work and help from your staff and fellow students, you will succeed.