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It was a life – long dream of mine and finally in June of 2000, it was a fact. I, Erna Fex, at the age of 59, was a university graduate with a BA in Sociology.

It had been a very long journey. Life intervened constantly interrupting my studies but I had persevered and I was proud of that fact. My husband had graduated from Laurentian University on June 2, 1995 with a BA in Political Science. He had taken his first course in 1961 and I had begun my studies in 1962 after graduating from North Bay Teachers’ College.

Laurentian University was spread out all over downtown Sudbury in those days. I remember that my first course, French, was in a room on Durham St. above a business. The spirit of adventure existed in all of us in those early days of Laurentian University. The actual buildings were rising on the Sudbury horizon between two scenic lakes – Lake Laurentian and Ramsey Lake. It was, and is, and gorgeous setting for this institution of higher learning. The architects, engineers and planners kept the surroundings in mind as they designed the buildings of stone with many windows letting the outside in. The forests of evergreens, oaks, birches and maples in the area formed a lovely backdrop for the edifices. All Sudburians were justifyingly proud of our university when it officially opened its doors in 1964. (?)

My university studies were sporadic after that first course. Marriage, raising children, working full – time – there did not seem to be enough hours in the day to be taking courses as well. However my dream never waned. Some day I would finish I promised myself and become a university graduate. In the meantime, my three daughters were growing up and pursuing their own university dreams. My eldest daughter Jacquie went off to Trent University in Peterborough in 1983, graduating in 1987 with her Honours Degree in Political Science. Her Dad and I were very proud although finding it hard to believe that we were now the parents of a university graduate. How did that happen? Our second daughter Michelle enrolled at Laurentian University and graduated with her Honours English Degree making us very proud of her accomplishments. Our youngest daughter Allison followed a more varied path. She began her university studies at Ottawa U. A professor at that institution discouraged her and attempted to destroy her self-confidence. Her Dad and I were very upset! I explained her situation to Dr. David Pearson when I met him in the hall of the Arts Building while taking one of my evening courses. He immediately offered his assistance which resulted in Allison transferring to the science program at Laurentian that September. Her two years at Laurentian were most successful and underlined to her and to us that she could succeed in whatever she studied. Wanting to become a vet she then moved to the University of Guelph from where she graduated with her Honours and Masters Degrees in Biology. Subsequently she was awarded her Ph.D from Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge.

My studies in sociology afforded me the opportunity to learn how human society functioned which I found fascinating. The study of social problems was very interesting and created an awareness in me of the need by society to develop ways of trying to ameliorate those pressing issues. I read the newspapers with that awareness focused in me and so developed an intense interest in those problems. While I had always been interested in politics before, now I examined the politicians’ stance on these problems in Canadian society more closely. The assigned essay topics sent me to the university library where I felt very much at home having always loved reading, research and books of any kind. The research I was required to do introduced me to professional journals which I did not know existed but found intensely interesting and I usually read and took notes much more extensively than was needed. The learning process involved consumed me and frequently I lost all sense of time. I loved studying and writing reports. Preparing for exams made me anxious but only to discover what my results would be. The whole university experience met my expectations of broadening my outlook and knowledge.

And so finally in December of 1999, I had completed all of the requirements for my bachelor’s degree. I had to wait for the Spring Convocation to actually graduate but the feeling of accomplishment gradually settled in. My husband and daughters had graduated before me and encouraged me to enjoy this whole graduation experience to the fullest.

In May, I received a letter from the Secretary of the Senate, Ronald Smith, advising me that the Senate of Laurentian University had approved my application for graduation at the 2000 Spring Convocation ceremony.

My commencement exercises would occur on June 1, 2000 at 2:30 pm. I made an appointment with Candid Photo Studio to have my grad pictures taken. My husband had not done this and I tried to convince him to have his photo taken with me but he decided not to do so. It was a decision he regretted later. My 84 year old father came from Wallaceburg for the auspicious day which meant a great deal to me. My eldest daughter Jacquie drove from Toronto with her 5-year old Rachel and 2 year old Trent. I felt elated during the convocation ceremony and couldn’t wait for President Jean Watters to call my name. As I walked onto the stage my daughter yelled, “Way to go Grandma!” Everyone laughed and Dr. Watters asked me if he had heard correctly. With pleasure I told him that my family was represented by four generations at this ceremony. He then asked whether life had intervened as it had taken me so long to finish. I agreed that this was so and he congratulated me in having persevered and suggested that I probably appreciated graduating more than the twenty somethings who were graduating with me. I agreed enthusiastically!

On Saturday June 3, my family had organized a grand celebration for me and had invited family, friends and neighbours to help me to celebrate. I received many beautiful flowers, wonderful books and other lovely mementoes which I appreciated tremendously but best of all was the knowledge that I had achieved a life-long dream of becoming a university graduate.

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