With just two more courses to take to complete her master’s degree at Grand Canyon University, Marian Barry could have participated in graduation ceremonies on campus in May.
But that just didn’t feel right for the 58-year-old Mesa resident.
“I’m not walking if I haven’t gotten it yet,” Barry said. “I felt funny about that.”
So, nearly three months later – with her master’s requirements now complete – she decided to have her own graduation ceremony.
She purchased her cap and gown, found out when her actual diploma was mailed, and then… she waited.
Each day, she checked the mail for her hard-earned certificate of accomplishment. On Aug. 2, when it came, she had a favor to ask her mail carrier.
“I asked her, ‘Would you mind presenting me with my diploma?’” Barry said. “I came back out in my cap and gown and she was cracking up. She was a good sport about it.”
Barry had her 83-year-old mother, Joan, snap a photo of the graduation ceremony – “I had to coach her; her hands are a little shaky and I knew we only had one chance at this” – and the commencement, on a 112-degree day, was complete.
“I’ve been showing that picture to everyone – families, friends, coworkers. They are all like, ‘That’s priceless! Only you would think of something like that,’” Barry said. “It’s getting a great reaction.”
Barry works as a clinical education specialist at Banner Ironwood Medical Center in San Tan Valley. She decided to pursue her master’s degree in leadership after GCU officials came to the hospital and outlined the necessary steps.
She was able to take the first two classes at the hospital, then completed her degree online.
“You’re never too old to continue your education,” said Barry, who got her bachelors’ degree in nursing from Louisiana State University in New Orleans in 1991. “I liked online better because it made me do more and study more and read more. ... You have to read the material and know the stuff.”
Barry was so enamored with her online experience at GCU, she now wants to become part of the process and has applied to be an adjunct faculty member with the College of Nursing.
“I’d love to teach at the college level,” Barry said, “just to share my experience and enthusiasm for nursing, because I have lots of that.”
She now has the diploma – and a photo – to prove it.