All in the family: Mother-son duo graduate togetherby Ashley Morris
Mothers hope to nurture and raise their children – to feed them with a bounty of home-cooked meals and enriching life lessons – so they can safely send them off along the proper path in life.
Coastal Carolina University’s commencement exercises this Saturday, a day before Mother’s Day, will be a reminder for Mom Linda Johnson that she’s found success with her son’s sendoff.
Johnson, 41, and son Robert Evans, 21, will both receive CCU degrees on this day.
“With everything I’ve done, being a mother is my most important accomplishment,” says Johnson, who will be receiving an MBA on Saturday. “I’m so incredibly proud of Robert. When I look at him and the person he’s become, it just makes me smile. There were the normal teenager-parent differences of opinion, of course, but I never had the worries that some parents have. I feel truly blessed to have him for my son. And he’s not just my son; I consider him a friend, too.”
It’s apparent that the two are best friends as they laugh and reminisce on a warm April day at one of the picnic tables on the CINO Grille deck. “It’s hard to believe it’s been four years,” says Evans, who is getting his bachelor’s degree in computer science on Saturday. He reveals, however, a countdown of the number of days, hours and minutes to graduation day that he’s made on the laptop flipped open in front of him.
It was in 2005 that Evans, Johnson and her husband Dave Johnson, along with their children – David, 9, and Antonia “Toni,” 6 – moved to Socastee from the town of Waldorf in southern Maryland. Evans was a junior in high school, and Johnson had an associate’s degree from a community college and a year’s worth of college credits from the University of Maryland.
“We’d been coming here since I was a baby for summer vacations, though, and just basically loved the area,” says Johnson. “We used to camp at Lakewood Campground all the time.”
While in Maryland, Johnson says, her father helped her raise Evans and was a big influence on him. Now Evans serves as a role model for his half-sister and half-brother. “They both really look up to Robert,” says Johnson.
Johnson finished her undergraduate studies at CCU, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance in 2008 at the age of 39. Evans began his CCU studies in December 2007. “We both just really liked the beautiful campus and how close-knit everyone seemed to be,” says Johnson. “And it’s nice that it’s close to home.”
When their undergrad semesters overlapped, mother and son carpooled, which helped out with parking. The two would also meet for lunch. “I got to know some of his friends that way, too,” says Johnson. “He’s never seemed embarrassed by having his mother on campus taking classes. In fact, he’s always made a point to tell his friends.”
Johnson and Evans spend more time off-campus these days, since Johnson’s graduate classes are at night and Evans' class schedule is daytime only. At home, they religiously watch “Criminal Minds” and “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” (featuring fellow CCU alum Michael Kelly). “And we both love to fish at Myrtle Beach State Park,” says Johnson. “You’ll probably be surprised at this, but we took a whole series of cake decorating classes together. We also took a painting class together that was given by Donna Dewberry.
“It’s really special being able to do all of this and graduate with my mom,” says Evans. “Not many people get to do this.”
Mother and son say that one of the extra rewards of their concurrent education has been the opportunity to help each other out. “He wrote a computer program for my MBA project,” says Johnson.
“She taught me not to give up,” says Evans. “I was going to drop a second-level math course because I was really frustrated, but I wound up sticking with it and got an A.”
And with those four years of love and support from each other, the two students will graduate May 7.
Evans, currently employed with Coleman Factory Outlet, may have options to use his degree post-graduation working locally in Web development with Direct Air or a local furniture store.
Johnson, currently working part-time as a substitute elementary school teacher, has a possible job opportunity in hotel management with a controllership position. Her next goal is to earn a CPA license.