In May of 2017, Beth Myers-Rees, a senior at Maryville College, will complete her Bachelor of Arts in Writing Communication. Like many seniors, she is eagerly awaiting her journey across the stage during the Commencement Ceremony on May 21. However, unlike most seniors, she has another graduation to celebrate.
Myers-Rees’ youngest daughter, Sarah, graduates from Maryville High School one week after graduation at MC. It’s not every day that a mother and daughter both graduate within that same year, but Myers-Rees is a non-traditional student, one with an education 39 years in the making.
In 2013, after 13 years of service as a Customer Billing Specialist at Marriot Business Services, she was terminated. “The longest job I’d had before that was two years. I was unemployed for six months,” she said.”
“For about four months when I was collecting unemployment and thinking about college, I realized that to increase my earning potential I would need to go back and finish the degree that I started in 1978.”
Myers-Rees was born in Chicago and is the oldest of five children, all of whom have completed their degrees. Her father earned a Bachelor’s in engineering in 1950, and her mother went to nursing school until she got married but returned to school after her children were grown to get a degree in accounting. Myers-Rees’ father relocated the family to Texas when she was 10 when he was offered a position at the International Boundaries and Water Commission.
Myers-Rees began her secondary education in 1978 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There she began her studies in Pre-Architecture, but switched to English her sophomore year. The University was large, hosting around 35,000 students. Her dorm alone contained 1,300 other students.
“I like Mayville College. At larger schools, you’re just another face in the crowd. I went a little wild there, and I was sent back (home) on academic probation. I was pretty naïve when I went away,” Myers-Rees said. After this, she decided to continue her education closer to home in Texas. She missed one semester, but she continued her education at the University of Texas at El Paso.
On Sept. 2, 1983, Beth became a military wife. She finished the semester at UTEP and moved to Mannheim, West Germany on Oct. 8, 1984 when her husband was transferred. Her experiences with the military weren’t always pleasant. “They told me ‘If we wanted him to have a wife, we would have issued him one,’” she said.
Her husband was a Private in the U.S. Army, 3rd Armored Calvary. Myers-Rees contemplated continuing her degree in Mannheim at the University of Maryland. Unfortunately, the institution was aimed at military children and not dependent spouses. The U of M wouldn’t issue her a degree because she hadn’t begun her education there.
They moved back to the United States at the end of 1987, and her first child, Rachel, was born on Jan. 13, 1988, and on Jan. 27, 1993, they divorced. Myers-Rees’ second marriage brought her to Maryville due to her husband’s job at StandardAero, but it ended similarly, with a daughter followed by a divorce. Beth officially separated from her second husband in the spring of 2005.
Beth was convinced to go back to school by Stacey Wilner, Lecturer of Music and Director of Choral Activities at MC. She chose Maryville because it was a smaller school and one that offered her the financial aid that would allow her to feasibly finish her degree.
Beth chose to become a Writing Communication major because although she was an administrator for 35 years, she has always had words. Beth is a poet and has had works published in Impressions, MC’s literary magazine, as well as Kaleidoscope, her high school’s literary arts magazine.
She mentioned that her most memorable college experience has been performing with the concert choir on their spring tour, where she recited poetry between songs. Beth also performs poetry regularly at a Vienna Coffeehouse.
“I have so many nice things to say about my mom; she’s the best,” said Myers-Rees’ daughter Sarah. When speaking about her mother, Sarah became emotional explaining that her mother was all that her older sister had for a few years and that Myers-Rees had previously helped pull another family together as well.
When Myers-Rees learned that her second husband had a daughter from a previous relationship, she pushed him to be a part of his daughter’s life in a way that her first husband never was with his daughter. “My mom is the reason either of my siblings has a dad, in a lot of ways. I think it’s really important that she pushed us,” said Sarah. After a tearful admission, Sarah said that she would be following in her mother’s path of secondary education by going to ETSU in the fall of 2017.
Sarah’s family isn’t alone in being positively affected by Myers-Rees. Jordan Walker, another Writing Communication major at MC said, “Beth is by far one of the most chill people on campus. As an older student, she brings a lot of wisdom to the college and shares it freely. She works hard and it’s pretty inspiring to see her succeeding after all these years.”
One of Myers-Rees’ professors Christina Seymour, Lecturer in English at MC, has also taken notice of Myers-Rees and her impact on others. “Beth is a student always willing to go the extra mile. As the events coordinator and head copy editor for Impressions, she demonstrates passion and commitment to creative writing and community by spreading our message to anyone who might listen,” she said. “As a writer she is attentive to detail and sound and engages in personal content that feels necessary and immediate. I have seen her mentor fellow students as well as learn from them herself.”
After graduation, Beth plans on becoming a technical writer or a contractor at Oak Ridge because she would like to work in green energy, something that MC prides itself on using.