You're Never too Old to Earn Your Degree
Harriett Libby finished Middlesex High School in Saluda, Virginia, in 1960, married Howard Roane that September, and set her heart on finishing her education with a college degree.
June 13, 2012
Original article and photo by Elsa Cooke Verbyla, Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal
Harriett Roane proudly displays her diploma from Bluefield College, a milestone she earned at age 69.
But, despite a calling to professional ministry, which would require a college degree, Roane passed on her dream, because “colleges were so far away” from her Urbanna, Virginia, home.
Now 69 years of age and living just a few miles away in Glenns, Virginia, with the support of her husband and three grown daughters, Roane has finally earned that degree, a bachelor of science in management and leadership from Bluefield College in Bluefield, Virginia.
Roane’s studies were sidetracked many times through the years by the responsibility of not only raising a family, but also frequent treatment for bipolar disorder.
“I’m well now,” she said. “The doctor came up with the right medicines. The key is to let people know if (you) have an illness like that, that there is hope for getting an education. If (you) want it, (you) can’t just give up. If it could happen for me, it could happen for (anybody).”
The bachelor’s degree, which Roane earned in December 2011 and wanted to get before she turned 70, is part of her complete plan to earn a master’s degree in divinity in three years and finally be able to enter professional ministry. It’s also a part of a plan between Bluefield College and The John Leland Center for Theological Studies.
In fact, in the fall of 2010, Bluefield and Leland signed an articulation agreement that allows students who have an interest in Christian ministry greater access to the theological training they will need to fulfill that calling.
A Christ-centered liberal arts college in Southwest Virginia, Bluefield College offers 20 undergraduate degrees, including Christian studies, but does not offer master’s degrees. Located in Northern Virginia, Leland offers graduate degrees in theology, as well as a pre-baccalaureate Diploma Program in Biblical studies, but no bachelor’s degree.
“What Leland or Bluefield might not achieve alone,” said BC’s Dr. Robert Shippey, vice president for academic affairs, “we have determined to achieve together for the benefit of students like Harriett Roane and all Virginia Baptists.”
The pact between the two schools allows students to begin their academic preparation for Christian ministry with Leland, complete their bachelor’s degree at Bluefield, and then continue with graduate study back at the seminary. In fact, when she earned her bachelor’s degree from Bluefield College this past winter, Roane became the first ever student to complete the Leland-to-BC exchange.
“I’m an achiever, and I wanted to get that degree,” said Roane about earning her bachelor’s degree from BC. “If you really want it bad enough to make the sacrifices,” such as time away from the family while hitting the books, “you can get it at any age, if it is something you’ve desired all your life.”
Now enrolled in the master’s program at Leland, Roane is just one chapter away from realizing her dream. In addition to her studies, she works full time painting, preparing exhibits and managing a Village Art Gallery. She also feeds her passion for ministry by participating in a group that provides study and worship services at local campgrounds.
“We hope Harriett is the first of many to complete this program,” said Dr. Shippey. “Those who are called into some form of professional ministry, like Harriett, need to benefit from quality theological education, and the Kingdom of Christ deserves informed spiritual leaders equipped with critical and creative thinking skills. This partnership between Bluefield and Leland helps achieve that goal.”