Graduating from college isn't just an exercise for young adults. Some middle-aged adults also are donning those black graduation gowns.
They include Southeast Missouri State University professor Mark Langenfeld, 50, of Cape Girardeau, Judy Bruyette, 50, of Poplar Bluff, Mo., and Peggy Cross, 46, of Portageville, Mo.
The three are among 728 students scheduled to graduate Saturday from Southeast Missouri State University at winter commencement. The ceremony will start at 2 p.m. at the Show Me Center.
Participating in the ceremony will be 594 undergraduate students and 134 graduate students.
Jeff Davis, a 1994 graduate of Southeast who serves on the Missouri Public Service Commission, will deliver the commencement address.
For Langenfeld, Cross and Bruyette, graduation itself is the greatest honor.
Langenfeld, 50, will graduate with a bachelor's degree in French. A professor of health, human performance and recreation, and biology, Langenfeld has taught at Southeast since 1987. This will be his second bachelor's degree.
Langenfeld said his decision to seek a degree in French was spurred by his interest in his family's history. His grandparents left France in 1908 and immigrated to America. He began making visits to relatives in France in 1979.
In fall 2001, he decided to better his French skills and enrolled in a French class at Southeast. He ended up taking a second class and soon was embarking on yet another degree.
Last June, he spent three weeks taking a class in Angers, France, as part of his French major.
Langenfeld said today he even thinks in French sometimes. "Even when riding my bike to and from work, I will try to name things in French," he said.
Cross, 46, will graduate with a bachelor's in education with an emphasis in elementary education. She said she might not be done with studying yet. She is considering enrolling in graduate school.
Cross, who married when she was 17, put off her plans to go to college so she could raise a family.
But in the summer of 1999 she began taking college classes. Over the past five years, she managed to take at least one class with each of her three children.
In the summer of 1999, she took a class on national and state government at the Crisp Bootheel Education Center at Malden, Mo., with her oldest son, Cory, now 27.
In spring 2000, she and son Josh, now 24, took an English composition class at the Malden center. She and Josh ended up taking several classes together at Southeast's Cape Girardeau campus.
This fall, she and her freshman daughter, Caitlyn, took a class in physical science at the Bootheel Education Center. The two were lab partners.
"We both got A's," said Cross, who credited her daughter with helping her do so well in the course.
Bruyette began her college experience in 1971 at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. She attended the school for 2 1/2 semesters before embarking on a 20-year career in the Army.
In fall 2002, having retired from the Army, she enrolled at Southeast. Bruyette said she decided to return to school after an employer turned her down for a management position at a factory because she didn't have a college degree.
She had hoped to finish college by the time she was 50. She turned 50 last summer.
"I knew if I didn't give up, I would get here," said Bruyette, who displayed the same attitude when she joined the Army at a time when female soldiers were less common.
She will graduate Saturday with a bachelor's in business administration with an emphasis in management information systems. Bruyette said she now wants to start a business to help people become computer literate.
Bruyette said that when she enrolled in Southeast, some of her classes from 30 years ago didn't transfer.
"Some things were just too old," she said.
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