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Laura Rodgers: A Long Journey for a College Degree

Posted: 05/02/2012
For more than 35 years, Laura Rodgers has had a dream – and that is to get a bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University.

After beginning at Roosevelt in 1976, she had to drop out two years later when her late husband lost his job and she had to go to work and help raise their family. Rodgers returned to Roosevelt in 2009, so determined to finally achieve her dream that she isn’t letting cancer or her deteriorating health sideline her.

“The last several weeks have been difficult for me,” said Rodgers, who has been battling against all odds to finish her degree while confined at home in bed. “Going back to school has meant everything to me and I’m so close now that I have to finish.  I just have to get through this.”

Diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 2010, Rodgers hasn’t been able to attend classes as much as she would like due to frequent radiation and chemotherapy treatments and the onset of spinal stenosis, a condition that has greatly limited her ability to move.

However, Rodgers has been intent on completing her coursework, even dictating information for assigned papers by phone to Roosevelt’s Academic Success Center.  Her dictation is typed in by a Center staff member and is immediately available for review in real time on her home computer screen via Google docking.

“We are doing all we can to make it possible for Laura Rodgers to complete her work and to graduate at the Auditorium Theatre on May 4,” said Nancy Litke, director of Roosevelt’s Academic Success Center.   Rodgers is also grateful for the help she has received from Erika Huber, assistant director at the Center.

Pamela Robert, associate professor of sociology who has had Rodgers in a number of her classes, has been impressed by Rodger’s “indomitable will” and refusal to give up, even while her health is failing. “I remember her (Rodgers) coming to class and saying that she’d been struggling with cancer,” said Robert. “She talked about how she’d raised her family and that this was now her time.  She always wanted a college degree but didn’t have the opportunity to work on it until recently.”

As a result, Robert and others in the Roosevelt community, including sociology student Michael Mathis, have stepped up to help Rodgers get the materials she needs to do the work so she can graduate.

“We all are pulling for Miss Laura to be able to graduate,” said graduate sociology student Michael Mathis, who has been taking notes for Rodgers in classes. “It’s very important to her, she’s a hard worker and I don’t mind helping. I truly admire her,” Mathis said.

Rodgers has no immediate plans for how she will apply her degree. Instead, she is simply enjoying the experience and process of getting a college education.

“Being around young people at the University has been a great experience. Ever since I began college in the Seventies, I’ve always thought highly of Roosevelt academically. It’s why I returned and it’s truly been a challenge that has transformed me,” said Rodgers. “It’s made my life different and better and I’m thankful I have had this journey.”

Rodgers is expected to graduate in a wheelchair at the Auditorium Theatre on May 4 with her three adult children looking on.

“We are glad after all these years that our mother is seeing this through, considering all the pain she’s endured,” said Rodger’s 40-year-old daughter, Robyn, who is making a trip from Brooklyn, New York, to attend her mother’s graduation. “There are people half her age who don’t have this kind of tenacity. We are so proud of her.”