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A LIFE'S PURSUIT:
Admissions counselor, Prenger, completes three degrees – one course at a time
|Barbara “Bobbie” Prenger, BPC admissions counselor and recent graduate, shows off the photo of her family that she duct-taped to her dress, under her gown, during the May 12 graduation. She said it was important to have her family walk across the stage with her when she received her degrees – three degrees, 25 years of school, and one class at a time. (Photo by Kelley M. Arnold)
By Kelley M. Arnold
Director of News and Public Information
MOUNT VERNON—For Brewton-Parker College staff member and recent graduate, Barbara “Bobbie” Prenger, earning a higher education has been an uphill battle fought one class at a time over the last 25 years.
On May 12, Prenger, an external recruiter/counselor in the college’s admissions office, emerged the victor as she graduated magna cum laude with three four-year degrees: a bachelor of arts in history, a bachelor of arts in English and a bachelor of arts in general studies.
|Bobbie Prenger holds her degrees and appears to be holding back tears after shaking BPC President Dr. David R. Smith’s hand during the May 12 Mount Vernon Commencement Ceremony. (Photo by Kelley M. Arnold)
“I didn’t ever think I’d finish this,” says the triple major. “But I did, and I don’t plan on quitting. I’m going to keep going.”
Prenger, 53, who grew up in Jefferson City, Mo., and has been a resident of Ailey for the last six years, plans to begin work on a master’s degree later this summer.
“My main thing is to live long enough to get my Ph.D.,” she says with a conspiratorial grin.
She thanks her friends, family, and co-workers for supporting her over the last quarter of a century; who put up with her evening study hours and helped her overcome a fear of participating in the classroom. The mother of two sons, Chris (36) and Kyle (28), and the proud grandmother of an active two-year-old little boy, says it is for them that she earned these degrees.
“I really did this degree for them,” she explains. “I want my kids and my grandkids to say that I did something good. It was a long road, but it sure was worth it. It’s my legacy.”
Prenger explains that her parents, her grandparents and her great-grandmother, who was the superintendent of the Jefferson City Schools (Mo.) in the 1930s, instilled in her the foundation for her love of learning – one that she never plans to quit using. As a child, she remembers playing the teacher with the school kids of her neighborhood and would spend her summers at the library cleaning the shelves just so she could be around all “of those books!”
Her love of learning is one that hasn’t gone unnoticed either.
“Every once in a while you meet a person who personifies what student learning is all about. Bobbie Prenger embodies the determination, the wonder and the inspiration for a working adult to persevere until her college dreams are attained,” said Dr. David R. Smith, president of Brewton-Parker College. “We are privileged to have her as a part of the Brewton-Parker College family.”
Provost Dr. T. Ronald Melton also looks to Prenger to encourage other returning or non-traditional students that it’s never too late to earn a college degree.
“Bobbie Prenger is an example of a student who would not give up and who overcame many obstacles to achieve (this) goal,” said Dr. Melton. “She is an inspiration to and a model for non-traditional students.”
Prenger adds that if it wasn’t for the additional encouragement of her first college history professor at Lincoln University (Jefferson City, Mo.), she wouldn’t be here today – a college graduate.
“Going back to school intimidated me, terrified me. I didn’t think I was smart enough,” she said. “I took my first class in graduate history, Native American history, and I wouldn’t have continued if it wasn’t for something that my professor, Charles Mink said. He told me that I was one of the first or second smartest students he had ever taught,” Prenger confides. “It was the most positive thing that anyone had ever said to me. It’s what kept me in school.”
“I’m glad when people in their 20s and their 30s call me (about going back to school),” says Prenger, morphing back into her role as an admissions counselor. “I tell them, wait a minute. You can do it. I did. I was just as afraid as they were. Hey, I’m going to be 60 anyway; I might as well have a degree.”