Wynne Ehrhart and Mary Ellen Adkins
Associate of Arts in Elementary Education, 1954
Mary Ellen Adkins
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, double major in Social Science, 2009
"When I enrolled at Ashford, I didn’t quite understand how symbolic and meaningful it was going to be to graduate from this school."
Wynne Ehrhart, 76, was born and raised in Clinton, Iowa. In 1952, she graduated from high school and enrolled in the local two-year college, Mount St. Clare. After she graduated with her Associate of Arts in Elementary Education, she found work as a teacher in Davenport, Iowa. “As time went on, I got married and got pregnant. In my day, they didn’t have maternity leave, so you had to quit. I wanted to go back to teaching, but I couldn’t do it for a couple more kids and a few years later.” By a couple of kids, Wynne means six - five daughters and one son. Today, she has eleven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren!
Eventually, Wynne did go back to teaching, and, despite thoroughly enjoying her job, she was constantly reminded of an old dream - earning her Bachelor’s degree. She made the decision to take action. “I worked on correspondence courses at night, and eventually finished my third year of college that way.” Unfortunately, the correspondence courses did not offer a way to finish the full Bachelor’s degree, so Wynne was left with the option of driving to campus. The closest four-year college was in Davenport, about 40 miles away. “I drove to Davenport once a week for 13 years, and at the end I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. It was an honor to get that far.” Almost 30 years after earning her Associate’s degree, Wynne was 50 years old, and she had achieved her goal.
Clearly, her children noticed Wynne’s weekly trip to Davenport for over a decade, and they could not help but be affected by their mother’s determination to earn an education. One daughter in particular, Mary Ellen Adkins, followed a path surprisingly similar to her mother’s, earning her Bachelor’s degree when she was 40 years old. “My mother is my greatest inspiration. She had six children, was a teacher during the day, and drove an hour one-way in the dark on the old river road to attend classes. Because of her, I was inspired to want more for myself.”
Like her mother, Mary Ellen held the goal of earning her college education for a long time before she was able to complete her degree. Mary Ellen’s primary challenge was her husband’s job, which requires them to move every couple of years. “We always moved out of state and that made the tuition costs increase. I knew I wanted better for myself, but I never had the opportunity. Then I started seeing commercials for online schooling.”
In 2005, Mary Ellen found Ashford University. “I decided I should go ahead and enroll right then, or else I never would. After I bit the bullet, I started asking more questions about the school. It turns out that Ashford University used to be called Mount St. Clare. When I enrolled at Ashford, I didn’t quite understand how symbolic and meaningful it was going to be to graduate from this school.”
In the spring of 2009, Mary Ellen completed her Bachelor of Arts, with a double major in Psychology and Social Science. She returned to Clinton and walked across the stage while her mother applauded in the audience.