by George Cartsonis
You could say that education is a family mission for Arleene Quigley and her five kids. Maybe it all started when Arleene had to put her own college education on hold to raise Laura, Diane, John, Brian and her youngest, Karen.
But Arleene’s dream burned bright for 30 years, and after her divorce the newly single mom returned to college, graduating (magna cum laude) in 1998 with an applied science degree in accounting from OCC.
Eldest daughter Laura won a university scholarship straight out of high school, earning her bachelor’s degree in music at Eastern Michigan University, but the rest of Arleene’s children came to OCC. One semester, in fact, Karen, Diane and Brian were taking classes at the same time as their mother.
Working full or part time while going to school created a major challenge for all of the Quigleys, and trying to study while living in the same house didn’t make it any easier. It was in their study habits that a generation gap between mother and children showed most clearly. "I needed absolute silence, hidden away in a separate room," Arleene says. Daughter Karen says she preferred a background of "white noise" in the form of classical music while hitting the books.
In spite of the obstacles, the Quigleys’ record of educational and professional achievement has been impressive.
But if the Quigleys faced barriers in getting a college education, they are quick to acknowledge how much they benefited by choosing OCC.
First is the quality of education. "The teachers were outstanding and the learning opportunities phenomenal... they made my transition to WMU easy," Karen says. Arleene enthusiastically agrees. "I’m so glad I went..." she says. "It was a wonderful experience".
Second were the exposures through membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community college students that has chapters at all OCC campuses "Phi Theta Kappa focuses on scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship" Karen says. "The leadership roles I held over the years helped build my confidence, and the people I’ve met through my involvement have changed my life."Both Karen and Arleene served as award-winning presidents of Alpha Omicron Xi, the Orchard Ridge Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa; Karen from 1995 to 1997, and Arleene in 1998-99. While four of her five kids have gone on to earn bachelor’s degrees, Arleene’s educational plans again went on temporary hold after graduation in 1998. An office administrator/accountant for the law firm of Stern and Associates since 1990, Arleene originally planned to transfer to Walsh College to earn her bachelor’s. But instead she chose to rechannel her energies toward developing a newsletter and website for the 4 My Child project, a non-profit resource information center for parents of children with cerebral palsy administered by Stern and Associates. Now that the crush is over, Arleene intends to resume her studies at Walsh this fall. It looks like she won’t have to wait another 30 years to complete the next phase of her education.