Remember…….it’s not just your degree.

Michael Mamp & Morrie Breyer

As I pulled away I looked behind me in the mirror.  My partner was closing the swinging gate that serves as an entrance to our property in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  His lip started to quiver, tears streamed.  Quickly I stopped the car and ran back toward the house for a final embrace before I started the long trek from Pennsylvania back to another looming school year at Iowa State University.  The 1,300 mile road trip gave me a great deal of time to think about the choices I was making in my life:  the pursuit of a PhD, the decision to do it so far away from my beloved, and whether or not I will even have a job when I am finished loomed heavy on my mind all the way to my overnight stay in Chicago.

The idea began to emerge, although I am the one taking these courses and pursuing the completion of the dreaded dissertation, that the degree is as much his as it is mine.  In fact, I would propose that for many of us our career pursuits are not possible without the loving and constant support of our family, friends and partners in life.  Morrie listens when I am frustrated with classes, students, professors, administrators, requirements and everything else in between.  How fortunate I am to have the support of this wonderful man!

Graduate school can be an incredibly isolating and rather self serving time in a person’s life.  Don’t get me wrong……I am certain that being a professor is the desired culmination of my life’s work, but isn’t it interesting when you get a group of academics together?  My work, my thesis, my dissertation, my research are the regular topics of conversation (in fact they are probably reading this and saying….but it is MINE).  Where else do you get to feed your intellectual and creative curiosity in such a focused way?  When I listen to my colleagues how frequently do I hear about partners and spouses that take care of pets and children while we are locked in a room with a computer, or better yet, the parents and friends that are willing to help pack, unpack and rearrange our lives as we move from Bachelor’s to Master’s to doctoral programs and eventually first academic positions.

To all the academics/students reading this take a moment to hug the ones you love and say THANK YOU!  Personally I would like to tell Morrie, here in this public forum, that I would be truly nothing without his love and support.  You mean the world to me!

If you aren’t in academia and happen to be following please know that we all appreciate everything you do for us on a daily basis.  Although the diploma ultimately has our name on it when we walk across the proverbial stage, it is your watermark of support that makes it valid and possible!

Above image courtesy of the author.  

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1 Comment

  • Diane September 05, 2012 12.18 pm

    You are so right, Michael. While I was in graduate school, my husband very selflessly endured all of my rantings, lunacy, etc. He kept our 3 children thinking that they really DID have a mother to the point that when they remember their youth now, I’ve never had them ask “Where were you, Mom?” They really do think that I was there all the time – Thank you, Ed! My Ph.D. is certainly his, too!


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