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Mother-daughter duos make Commencement a family affair

By : Sandy Paniccia

For most mothers, watching their children at Commencement is a proud moment. But two mothers this year will not only be sharing smiles with their children, they’ll be sharing the spotlight.

Two sets of mother-daughter graduates will have good cause for a double celebration as they receive their diplomas together during ceremonies this Sunday.

Jacqueline D’Amore and her daughter, Jamie, both from Earlville, will graduate with bachelor’s degrees from the School of Education and Human Development.

At the master’s level, Diane Ryan and her daughter, Karyn, both of Endicott, are also SEHD graduates. Karyn is earning the MA in social science, while mom Diane is completing the MSW/MASS degree from Binghamton and SUNY Albany.

The D’Amores began their affiliation with Binghamton in 1991, when mother Jackie first enrolled. Jamie followed suit in 1999. The pair has been attending BU together for a few years.

Jackie, an administrative assistant, decided to pursue her degree in order to get a better job at Colgate University, her workplace. But because Colgate does not offer evening or weekend classes, she made the hour and a half commute to Binghamton once or twice a week. She and her daughter took advantage of the satellite office in Norwich as well, attending two classes per semester on average.

But Jackie isn’t the only one of the pair who’s had to balance life as a college student with the demands of motherhood. “Jamie became pregnant right out of high school and gave birth to my grandson, Justin,” Jackie said. “She worked, took care of the baby and maintained a high GPA while getting her degree. Although she lives with me, she provides all the care to her son.

“I think Jamie is awesome, and I’m very proud of her,” Jackie said. “She’s had a lot on her plate.”

Jackie and Jamie D’Amore shared car trips, notes and parental responsibilities on the way to earning their degrees.

The hardest part, according to Jamie: “Not getting enough sleep. And trying to do my homework and read.” Asked what she liked about having her mom in classes with her, Jamie said, “She takes better notes than I do. And if you have to miss class, you have a backup.”

“I never skip class,” Jackie was quick to add.

The two often commuted to Binghamton together, and Jackie made it a point not to broach subjects and issues that would cause arguments in the car. “We would have to ride together for a full hour and a half,” she explained. “I didn’t want her jumping out of the car.”

Their clear respect for each other is evident. Jamie credits much of her success to her mother. “I wouldn’t have gone to college if my mom hadn’t,” Jamie said.

“It’s incredible how she has done it all,” Jackie said. “I was so scared for her four years ago, and now I know the doors will open a little easier for her with a college degree.”

For the Ryans, the family educational experience began as undergraduates at Binghamton.

Diane, retired from IBM and a mother of three boys in addition to Karyn, is the recipient of a Hoyt Research Fellowship. She credits her ability to succeed to the skills she learned as a mother. “I got it done by prioritizing and utilizing time management,” she said.

Karyn and Diane also give credit for their success to the support they received from BU staff. “Everyone in SEHD has been great,” Karen said. “The people here believe in their students and go out of their way to help you.”

Diane agrees. “SEHD has the most incredible support group to help you so that you don’t get discouraged,” Diane said.

While there seems to be an extraordinary understanding between m

Diane and Karyn Ryan seldom saw each other on campus, but supported each other whenever they could.
other and daughter, the two weren’t exactly study buddies. Hectic schedules and the geography of campus life prevented their paths from crossing very often. “We would see each other in the hallway every once in a while,” Karyn said. “But for the most part, we didn’t take classes together.”

They did, appropriately enough, end up in the same “Family Systems” course.

“We would meet for dinner once in a while before class,” Diane said. “We talk on the phone a lot and are very close. Of course, there are times when we’re stressed, but Karyn is very supportive and has seen me through.”

Still, as Diane proved, moms will be moms. “She would call me in the morning and say, ‘You know you have schoolwork to do?’” Karyn said. (Diane’s quick response: “I was just checking.”)

Diane becomes teary-eyed when she describes her daughter’s accomplishments. “I’m proud of her, but not surprised. She’s extremely bright and creative. She can do anything she puts her mind to.”

Karyn plans to look for a job working with children. Diane will be looking for something to do with her free time — something she hasn’t had much of for awhile. Yet she maintains that graduation doesn’t mean her learning has come to an end. “I’m a lifetime student,” Diane said. “We learn the entire time we’re living. It’s exciting.”

“I’m very proud of my mom,” Karyn said. “She’s the only person I know who has this incredible drive to educate herself and others. She’s shown me that education is an important thing to continue throughout your lifetime. But she’s more than just a role model. She’s someone I go through things with as a friend.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08