The Ohio State University at Marion

Marion campus alum starts non-traditional student scholarship, credits regional campus for educational success

March 6, 2017

“We got six degrees for the price of one,” recalled former Ohio State Marion student Denise (Didi) Fahey, only half in jest. A non-traditional student in the late 1990s, Dr. Fahey recalled starting her college career on the Marion campus when the last of her four children entered kindergarten.

Somehow, she worked her own studies into her children’s school schedule. Fahey said, “I would put the kids on the bus, and if the bus was late, I was sweating it, and would fly up to Marion,” from their home in Delaware. “There were times when I was sneaking out of class five minutes early, just so I could get there when they were getting off the bus,” she added.
Without the proximity and ease of access to the Marion regional campus, said Fahey, “there’s no way I could have done it.”

Dr. Fahey’s joke about six degrees refers to the fact that her entire family became engaged in her college education. “I’m not a very strong reader,” she admitted. “My children would read to me. They read me through my undergraduate and my subsequent degrees, so they actually ‘went to college’ at the same time I did.” While the kids read, “I made sandwiches and folded t-shirts—all the stuff that moms do,” she added.

“My husband proofed my papers, so whatever I took, everybody in the household took,” she said. Fahey felt the experience led her children to a love of learning that has paid off in eleven more college degrees from various institutions—four undergraduate, five master’s, and two doctorates, in addition to their mom’s bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

She remembered her professors, like history professor Dr. Vladimir Steffel, allowing her to bring her children to class. “He would give them questions to answer, based on the reading they’d done,” Fahey said.

Dr. Fahey’s strength in math led her to take statistics courses and to develop an interest in quantitative research on educational programs. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on parental volunteering. The Boy Scouts hired her, even before she graduated with her doctorate. She built an algorithm for a large foundation in Denver and today runs her own educational consulting company in Denver.

Didi Fahey’s motivation comes from her grandmother, Dorothy Carver, the daughter of Jefferson County, Colorado’s first treasurer. Progressing rapidly through a two-room schoolhouse, she became a life-long learner and teacher, in an era when women often did not go on to higher education. Fahey’s mother was also a non-traditional student. “In fact,” she said, “my daughter Bridget was the first to graduate on time—the first traditional student female in our family.”

Understanding what it takes to be an older student, Dr. Fahey has started an Ohio State scholarship fund focused on non-traditional students studying at Ohio State Marion. “It’s a tough choice,” she noted, “deciding whether to go to school or to work. I’m just hoping that this is going to make it easier,” for those non-traditional students following her example to realize the value of a college education.

Her scholarship is named for her pioneer-stock grandmother. The Dorothy Francis Carver Scholarship Fund benefits its first students autumn semester 2017.

“My family and I are thrilled to be able to ‘pay it forward,’ particularly to a place like Ohio State Marion that made it possible for me to start on this journey,” explained Fahey, “even as an older student with family obligations.”