MOUNT OLIVE - When Rebecca Moore graduates from University of Mount Olive in December she might appear to stand out from the rest. While the majority of students in her traditional classes will be heading off to find their feet in the world, she will be bringing an already eventful journey full circle. A self-professed “senior-senior,” Moore is 61 years old and will graduate on December 14, with a degree in English, and a minor in creative writing. Moore’s path to college has been a long one, but one with no regrets. Moore’s unwavering faith has been a constant driving force throughout her life including in her educational journey.
As a high school student Moore struggled, and her first college attempt ended prematurely. She later went to secretarial school, where she met much more success. Soon afterwards she met and married Alan Phipps, the father of her two children, Jim and Rachel. Six years into the marriage, Alan was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphatic cancer. Moore was only 28, with two young children to raise.
During this period, Moore took it upon herself to make the decisions necessary to support her family. “It was during these trying times that I made a life-altering decision. We were facing major financial struggles and a new administration was heading to the white house. We had no idea what kind of changes would take place or how they would affect disability or veterans benefits. Common sense kicked in, since I was able to work and Alan was not, and I applied to Delaware Technical and Community College to attempt getting my LPN. I knew with this training, I’d be able to find a job and take care of my family. It was a wise decision- one that I’ve never regretted. The irony of this- I was accepted into nursing school on the same day that Alan died.”
Moore spent years working as a nurse, but found that something was still missing. So, at the age of 58, Moore enrolled at University of Mount Olive to obtain her bachelor’s degree in English.
“I wanted my college degree,” said Moore. “But not just any college degree; one that made sense, and one that was me. I write. It’s who I am, and what I do. The English language is so beautiful and complex, and I love it.”
Moore chose the small campus at MOC, because as she said, “I wanted an environment where I could have access to the professors. I didn’t want to be a faceless number.”
Being in a class where most students were 40 years Moore’s junior was a nerve racking experience. It was also a barrier that was broken down when she realized that age was simply a label thrown upon people in the same way as race and gender.
“There’s 40 years difference between me and my closest friends. But, just like so many other things in life-when there are differences, we ignore labels and accept each other for who we are,” Moore shared.
Despite admitting to being a technophobic and struggling with algebra and poetry, Moore can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, the real resilience came when her physician found a “suspicious mass” during her annual checkup. As a nurse, Moore knew what the implications of the mass could be. When she was told it had to be removed, she asked if she could finish out the semester, and see some of her fellow classmates graduate in May. Two days after seeing her friends graduate, she was admitted into the hospital for surgery. With the support of her family, her doctors and the healing graces of God, Moore has fully recovered, and is set walk across the stage in December to get her degree.
Graduation means celebration time for Moore and her husband of 32 years, David. For the Moore’s, this means a trip to Disney World. Moore is now looking to the future once again and is considering the possibility of graduate school to complete an MFA or MLS. She also hopes to stay involved with the English Society, Sigma Tau Delta, which has been a big part of her life at MOC. She has also devoted a lot of time to the Writing Center, helping fellow students with their own writing. Moore hopes to continue this venture at the College or elsewhere.
It has been a long road for Moore, but her story is testament to the real meaning of a college education. It is not just for young people leaving high school, nor is it just for adults seeking career enhancement. It is a journey that can complete even the worldliest person; enhancing their lives, changing their points of view, and challenging them to become more than who they were before.
University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville. For more information, visit www.moc.edu.