STEPHENVILLE (August 6, 2019) — Lea White enrolled online at Tarleton State University about a year and a half ago with two goals.
She wanted to improve her chances for advancement at work.
She wanted to be an inspiration to her four children.
Check, and check.
A campus bookstore manager who lives in Mesquite, Lea will graduate Friday, Aug. 9, with her bachelor of science in applied science degree. She will deliver the commencement address on the Stephenville campus in the 1 p.m. ceremony.
Lea has lived in the Metroplex since she was in middle school. Widowed in 1987, she raised and provided for her children on her own. In that time, she retired after a 21-year career with Disney and started on another path with her Tarleton degree.
“When I started looking for a school I gravitated to Tarleton because it offered a full online degree,” she said. “Tarleton had a friendly community vibe I was looking for. The counselors were welcoming, and they all worked with me to help me get over all the obstacles. They took all that extra time to help me. They made it not so frightening.”
She was already acquainted with Tarleton after her youngest daughter studied nursing there, and from when she and a son attended a Boy Scout event on campus in the 1990s.
Lea is a manager for the Follett chain of campus bookstores. She works in Greenville on the Paris Junior College campus.
“I went back to school because I hit that glass ceiling,” she said. “Even though I have experience, to get farther I need that degree. I could get my foot in the door with my experience, but a degree will open it wide.
“It has already created new opportunities with my job. They’ve actually given me more responsibilities. I’m wanting to improve and advance, and they’re working to let me do more since they recognized that, by going for the business degree, I wanted more out of my job.”
Lea said her coursework has allowed her to understand the intricacies of her job in ways she didn’t before.
“Sometimes you do things in your job because you’re told to do them. Now there’s the connection that makes sense. The light bulb goes on. It’s putting that knowledge with application and joining them together to make it work. It has made me better at what I do.”
Her kids have kept an eye on Mom’s educational trek, and hers is the first of several graduation ceremonies in the family’s future.
“I have a granddaughter who is now in college, a son who went back to college and will graduate in May with a degree in construction management, and another son, out of school since 2001, who has gone back to school this summer,” Lea said. “My daughter graduated in 2004 and has gone back to get her master’s. I’m so proud of them.
“If I have inspired them to go back, then that’s a good thing.”