Mother and Son Achieve Mutual Milestones

Ashford University grads participate in another prestigious ceremony on March 3

Giving a son a skill is better than giving him a thousand pieces of gold. When James Grady, a recent Ashford University graduate, reflects on the values his mother instilled in him, this Chinese proverb resonates.

At 1 p.m. on March 3 at the National Guard Armory, 100 Quitman Guards Lane, Grady, 40, will officially be promoted to sergeant major for his exemplary dedication and leadership in the Georgia Army National Guard's G4/J4 logistics division.

To make the commemorative occasion even more monumental, Jackie Mckennie, his mother, who is a sergeant major in the Georgia Army National Guard's G1 administrative section, will pin him at the ceremony. Jackie, 59, says¸"It's an honor that my son and I have both made major accomplishments in the Georgia National Guard."

"My mother has always been an inspiration and a positive influence," Grady, who has been in the military for 21 years, said. Their mutual achievement to the level of sergeant majors isn't all they have in common – and it isn't the first time they have followed in one another's footsteps.

Mckennie made the decision to attend Ashford University and earn a college degree because of her son. "We both attended an Ashford University informational session, and I enrolled," Grady said. "Soon after, I described my online higher education experience to her and she enrolled too."

For many years, Mckennie had yearned to earn a higher education degree. With children to raise and a demanding military position, her education aspiration was out of reach at a traditional university. Online classes made it possible. Both Grady and Mckennie say their biggest challenge was staying focused on schoolwork while maintaining their military roles.

"It was difficult to concentrate on my studies when I was constantly sending soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan, especially when my son was in Afghanistan, but I wanted to show my children, and the soldiers I supervised as a sergeant major, that it is never too late," Mckennie said.

Grady inspired and worried his mom. "I remember once I was doing my homework and a suicide bomber was killed with a 200-pound bomb less than 100 yards away from me. It's hard to think about a paper when coming that close to being hurt, but I made it through," Grady said.

“I’m always encouraging other soldiers to get an education,” Grady said. “The knowledge obtained from my instructors and classmates at Ashford University has truly helped me become a better leader and manager.”

Last April, mother and son traveled to the Ashford University campus in Clinton, Iowa to don a traditional cap and gown and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, both of them earning bachelor's degrees in organizational management.

As Grady takes the stage again on March 3, he is once again humbled. His advice to others is to stay focused on the goals one sets. And, if fortunate enough, there will be strong maternal guidance and a mom to emulate along the way.

For additional information on Mckennie and Grady visit:


About Ashford University

Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. Ashford University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association ( The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit or call Shari Rodriguez, associate vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.