One Marion area woman’s journey to earn a university degree, after facing multiple road blocks, serious medical issues, and brushes with death
Earning a college degree can be challenging at any age, but throw in the additional obstacles that come with being a mother and non-traditional student, working full-time, a diagnosis of diabetes, surviving a heart attack, open heart surgery and a kidney transplant, and you have the true definition of perseverance.
Through a winding, tumultuous, and at times, plodding road, Ohio State Marion Graphic Illustrator, Lynda Ross concluded her twenty year quest to earn a degree from The Ohio State University. She completed that journey on Sunday, May 5th, with the prestigious designation summa cum laude, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Art and Antiquity.
Ross grew up a small town girl in the eastern Marion county farm community of Caledonia, Ohio. Like many young women in the early 1970’s, higher education wasn’t necessarily in the forefront of her post high school plans. A 1973 Elgin High School graduate, Ross recalled the landscape for women, higher education, and the workforce was much different than today.
“What girls did in the 1970s was marry a factory worker or farmer, or became a secretary or factory worker themselves,” she explained.
With little to no guidance from her parents, relatives, teachers, or guidance counselors at the time she graduated high school, Ross recalled college was just not in the cards for her in 1973.
“My dad had to quit high school in junior high and my mom quit high school months before graduation,” said Ross. “My dad valued education, but just didn’t know how to guide me.”
“He was a very smart man,” exclaimed Ross. “He invented equipment for local companies like Wilson Bohanan and Hercules in Prospect,” which she believes is still in use today.
“I think that when I got into National Honor Society, I could see how proud he was of me,” she recalled.
Ross has used the inspiration and memory of her father as a primary motivating factor to pursue her degree no matter how long it took.
Working as a medical transcriptionist both full-time and part-time for the first 20 years of her work history, she had established a career, but still aspired for more. It wasn’t until 1985 when she secured a job with Ohio State in Columbus, that the idea of pursuing a college education took hold.
“When I started working for the university I realized even more the value of education,” she said.
Upon transitioning her job to Ohio State Marion in 1989, she found herself in a very unique situation that helped her begin working towards her goals.
“I could take classes in the very building I was working in,” Ross explained.
Ross believed this was something she could have only accomplished on a smaller campus like Ohio State Marion.
“It seemed like the perfect opportunity just dropped into my lap,” she added.
Then in 2001 a heart attack and triple bypass surgery put Ross’ aspirations on hold. No longer was the stress of full-time employment, raising a family, and classes a primary concern, but her very mortality was at stake.
After a few years of recovery, she began plugging away again.
With ample progress toward her degree made after recovering from open heart surgery, kidney failure and a transplant that followed in 2009 provided another discouraging setback for the long-time Ohio State employee.
“You get to a point where you think, ‘this is just going to take forever,’ but I still wanted that degree."
Ross credited many of the faculty at Ohio State Marion for inspiring her to continue despite her many hardships.
“While all my instructors where wonderful, I have three instructors that were really instrumental in my getting to this point,” said Ross, “Terry Pettijohn, Timothy McNiven, and Zuheir Alidib.”
According to Ross, Drs. Pettijohn, McNiven, and Alidib went the extra mile and helped provide the drive and motivation to continue on her educational journey. Despite the setbacks she experienced, keeping her eyes on that degree was the ultimate driving force.
Although she was only taking one or two classes per quarter, she tried not to focus on the length of time it was taking her but her ultimate goal of earning an Ohio State degree and the pride her father must feel looking down on her.
Now beaming with pride, she recently joined over 10,000 new Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium last Sunday who also realized their goals. But in Lynda’s case, the journey may have been long and at times difficult, but the fruits of her labor are sweeter because of the sacrifices she made to achieve her life’s ambition and make her father smile.