Degree offers security for Meridian woman
GRADUATION PREPARATION Jennifer Riley, left, and Lindsey Williamson, right, adjust Wilma Whitfield's cap and gown before graduation ceremonies at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus. Whitfield, 47, completed her degree in elementary education despite many challenges she and her husband have faced. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star.
By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
May 10, 2003
Wilma Whitfield isn't the typical college graduate.
Whitfield, who is an elementary education major at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus, is 47, is a native of the Netherlands, and has a husband who is battling an incurable, debilitating disease.
A year and a half ago, Whitfield's husband of 12 years was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a spinal cord disorder. He was able to attend Whitfield's graduation, but he faces an uncertain future.
Whitfield was among more than 117 MSU Meridian graduates who participated Friday in commencement ceremonies in Kahlmus Auditorium.
The two-year, degree-granting branch of Mississippi State's main campus in Starkville has long been a home for many traditional, as well as non-traditional, students.
Bill Crawford, president of the Montgomery Institute and a graduate of MSU Meridian, told graduates during his commencement speech that each one of them is special in many ways.
Crawford, himself, received his master's degree a year and half ago from MSU Meridian.
Besides working for the Montgomery Institute, Crawford also serves as one of 12 members on the state College Board which oversees Mississippi's eight state-supported public universities.
Crawford encouraged the graduates to have what he called "positive dissonance, or the discomfort between what we do compared with what we value."
Crawford said former U.S. Rep. H.V. "Sonny" Montgomery used dissonance to pass the GI Bill in 1984 by showing Congress what it was prone to do pass bills related to weapons instead of what it told the country it valued the men and women in the military.
Whitfield said she couldn't have made it through school without the special faculty and staff at MSU Meridian who raised money and held food-drives to help her and her husband.
Whitfield, who came to America 6 1/2 years ago, said she plans to get her husband back to the doctors as soon as possible and then begin to look for a teaching job.