Tarleton commencement speaker comes full circle for accounting degree

STEPHENVILLE (December 6, 2019) — On the Tarleton State University Waco campus, Elizabeth Key is considered a non-traditional student.

She puts her educational situation in other terms.

“I would say I’ve done life backward,” she says. “I have grandchildren and I’m in college.”

Elizabeth quit school at 16, then returned to the classroom 28 years after earning her GED certification. Now she’s the keynote speaker at commencement exercises at 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13, at Wisdom Gym in Stephenville.

She’s graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

The path to her diploma began without fanfare. When the youngest of her four children started junior high, she joined the workforce and landed in an accounting department.

“I really enjoyed what I was doing and felt like this is what I want to be when I grow up,” she said. “Three years later I received a layoff notice, and I had to decide what I wanted to do from there.”

Her decision was to pursue a degree in accounting. Living rurally near Waco, she stayed close to home and began her coursework at McLennan Community College.

“I was studying at McLennan Community College, and my advisers didn’t let me settle for an associate degree. They encouraged me from the get-go to make a plan that would let me roll right into Tarleton and finish my bachelor’s degree.”

She begins an internship in January with Traplena, Sullivan and Reinke, PC, a CPA firm in Waco.

“The Tarleton-Waco accounting program has been incredibly helpful in guiding me through classes and helping me be prepared to apply what I learn. The program equips its students, not just with knowledge but with practical accounting templates we can use and carry into the workforce.”

For her commencement address Elizabeth will share her story and apply some of the lessons she has learned.

“It’s never too late to get an education,” she said, with a codicil. “Once you set your sights on a goal, working toward it is very important, but life is still going to happen all around you. I encourage people not to get overly focused on their goals and let life pass them by.”

Several family members, including three of her children and her husband, will be in the crowd for her speech.

“After completing a degree, you understand what it takes to get there,” she said. “I think it’s a different type of appreciation.

“At this stage of my life, I want to encourage others, whatever their age, to stay focused and not let education take a back seat. Try. Don’t give up.”

Even if things sometimes are a little backward.


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