Bluefield College's Pam Gordon Has a Passion for Learning
The Wikipedia entry for Clintwood, Virginia, lists a population of 1,549 people and a median household income of a little over $22,500. The entry also identifies two notable persons from Clintwood: an NFL football player and an executive of the Bristol Motor Speedway.
December 20, 2009
A third person should be listed among Clintwood's notables: Pam Gordon, an alumna of Bluefield College who possesses a relentless passion for learning. Pam's story is one of overcoming odds, obstacles, and the weight of being raised in an abusive home with few opportunities.
Pam, who was the salutatorian of her high school graduating class, is modest about her achievements, but quick to share how being a learner has helped her to become the person she is today. Articulate and soft-spoken, she relates that she "went to Alice Lloyd College after graduating high school a year early and skipped her freshman year by testing out of most of the required classes."
Her motivation was two-fold. She wanted to learn, but she also "needed to escape the abusive home life." In fact, Pam worked to pay for her classes by managing the school cafeteria at Alice Lloyd, and after a year or so found herself in an abusive relationship and again needing to escape.
As she explains it, she was "derailed by life and circumstances," and at the age of 21, having not yet finished college, she found herself moving to the Radford area of Virginia, where she began working as a production operator at Radford Arsenal. Another opportunity came her way a few years later with Corning in Blacksburg, and she was employed with them for several years -- all the while looking for opportunities to further her education.
"When my employers would offer a training day or a class, I would take it," Pam said. "Each job extended a learning opportunity that would allow me to be in strategic positions. I worked in Blacksburg, New York and even Seoul, Korea."
It was in Korea that Pam was further motivated to finish her bachelor's degree. "In that culture, I was an American female that did not possess a master's degree or an advanced education; therefore, I received little respect."
Pam remembers that her mother, at the age of 43, decided that she wanted to obtain her high school general equivalency diploma (GED), because "she only had a fourth or fifth grade education."
"I'll never forget how hard it was for her," Pam said. "I can remember her crying at night because the math was so hard. She worked at it and got her GED."
With that same motivation, Pam began searching for an opportunity to complete her bachelor's degree. Through her employer, she learned of a degree completion program offered by Bluefield College. She began praying about enrolling, because she "wanted a classroom experience rather than an online program."
"I chose Bluefield College, because it was a Christian school," said Pam. "The timing was right, and the schedule was right."
So, she enrolled, and a year and a half later in December 2008 she walked across the stage to receive her diploma -- on her mother's birthday, no less.
"I was 43," Pam said, "the same age as my mother was when she received her GED. It was no coincidence. It was perseverance and faith. God made it happen."
God and a passion for learning. That same passion for learning that now has Pam enrolled at Averett University pursuing a master's degree in business administration. And, she's already planning her doctorate work.
"I have an overwhelming drive to finish the MBA and the doctorate," she said. "Then, I'd like to work with helping other adults complete their educations, maybe even direct an MBA program."
Pam said she hopes her future also includes helping women who have been victims of abuse and those who are single mothers complete their education.
"Education is power," said Pam, who struggled as a single mother to raise two sons of her own. "In 2000, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, and I went into a time of self reflection. I gave God complete control, and I had to reconcile and deal with what had happened to me in the past. My path was not by chance. I feel that I have broken a stronghold of abuse and illiteracy that has plagued my family. I am strong, because God has helped me to be that way."
Pam currently works for Alliant Techsystems, Inc., the world's largest munitions manufacturer. She is the only female operations manager in the company.