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Learn it all: Clayton State senior reflects on academic journey to upcoming degree

(October 31, 2023) - In 1975, Marjorie Woodhurst-Kersey graduated from high school.

Marjorie Woodhurst-Kersey advises all Clayton State students to simply learn whatever they can when presented an opportunity to do so.

Nearly 50 years later, at 66 years young, she’s only weeks away from receiving her master’s degree at Clayton State University.

“My undergraduate degree was in liberal studies with a focus on English writing,” Woodhurst-Kersey said. “When I finished that, my professors encouraged me to continue – that’s what I’ve done. They’ve been absolutely lovely.”

For the last ten years, Woodhurst-Kersey has worked as a curriculum writer for adults in Rotary Leadership Institute – a training program to help Rotarians know more about the program.

But back in the late ‘70s, she was a typical student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a dual major in art and communications.

“If I couldn’t explain it to you, I could draw a picture,” she said, laughing.

But it was in her senior year at UNCW that she said, “life happened.”

And while she was so close to earning her degree, at that time, she chose to leave her academic career behind.

“I was married, got a job that paid more than I’d made up to that point, and then was relocated,” Woodhurst-Kersey said. “Through my career, honestly, it never made sense to go back. Finishing my degree, any degree, wasn’t going to impact my earning potential or promotions. I went happily on with my life.”

But in 2019, she decided to gift herself with a return to college on her 62nd birthday and resume her academic pursuits.

“The state of Georgia has a program for ‘seniors’ to come back to school at age 62,” Woodhurst-Kersey said. “They took all my transcripts of everything I’d done and basically went through their whole catalog saying, ‘this is what we can do.’”

It was a degree that she was more than glad to earn, despite the many obstacles she faced.

Some were as simple as retaking algebra.

“Math is not my forte …” she mused.

But others were much more complicated, such as constant back-and-forth trips to her hometown of Parma, Michigan.

Margie would often be with her parents in The Wolverine State, all while earning her undergrad in Morrow, helping her mom take care of her now-late father who passed away in June 2023.

In addition to the exhaustion from the constant travel, Woodhurst-Kersey also said that her hometown of Parma had no internet.

... At least they didn’t until she needed to take one particular exam.

“My hometown has no internet,” Woodhurst-Kersey said. “That made online learning a challenge. A lot of the professors worked with me but, notably, I had one professor who did not and insisted I take an exam on a particular day regardless. Parma was wonderful! The library managed to get internet for one week! That’s the busiest my hometown library has ever been because everybody found out they had internet for a week. I ended up having to take my exam in the library manager’s office because there were so many people.”

Nothing could stop Margie from receiving her bachelor’s degree and nothing has stopped her on the way to her master’s either – a degree that she has proven is never too late to earn.

When asked what she plans on doing after graduation, she laughed and reflected on what her husband, Ron, told her.

“My husband says I’m going to take over the world!” Woodhurst-Kersey said. “I’ve been focusing on English writing and curriculum development for adults because, while my husband and I are financial planners, I have had some wonderful opportunities presented to me. I also write fiction!”

Her writing talents will even be used to create a new book in 2024 alongside one of her favorite professors – the men and women she said were the most memorable part of her time at Clayton State “without question.”

But while her second degree will be hers soon enough, and her time on campus will come to an end, Margie wants to stress the importance and value in an education to all Lakers.

“Your attitude makes all the difference,” she said, hoping that the next generation of Clayton State students realize and appreciate how special and prized their respective degrees truly are.

“Don’t give up on your dreams,” Woodhurst-Kersey said. “It took 40 years for me to finish my undergrad, but that doesn’t mean I forgot about it – the right time just hadn’t come yet. So, you don’t give up. If you stay positive, think positive, you can accomplish things – that makes a difference.”

Additionally, even still at 66, the work ethic of her late father still rings true in all she does.

Margie hopes that all students don’t develop academic tunnel vision, solely focusing only on learning material relevant to their majors.

She encourages everyone to simply learn as much as they can about anything and everything.

“When he had the opportunity to learn, he said, ‘yes,’” said Woodhurst-Kersey, remembering her dad. “You say ‘yes’ because you never know when [you’ll need] that piece of knowledge. For me, my faith says that God puts that piece of knowledge in front of you for a future purpose. If knowledge is presented to you with an opportunity to learn, take it because you’re going to need it somewhere down the line. Say ‘yes.’”

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