Southeast Student Delivers on 29-Year-Old Promise to Graduate


When Southeast Missouri State University student Amy McDonald started college in Ohio, she wasn’t sure what major to pursue. She also didn’t know it would take her 29 years and a move to Missouri before she earned her degree.

McDonald, a Bell City, Missouri resident, will receive her Bachelor of General Studies this Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Show Me Center. Her parents, both college graduates, encouraged her to earn a degree. She was interested in teaching but was undecided on a major. She began pursuing entrepreneurial interests, such as magazine publishing and making and selling unique jewelry at craft festivals and through her website.  Completing her college education became less of a priority.

“I was a bit of a rebel,” McDonald said. “I also didn’t know that having any degree was beneficial, and majors can be effective in other areas.”

She moved to Missouri about 15 years ago to be close to her husband’s family. She continued her entrepreneurial ventures and started substitute teaching in and around Advance.

When her father had a heart attack about two years ago, it prompted her to follow through on the promise she had made to her parents to get a degree.

“As a substitute teacher, and with my own kids, I have advised many students to get degrees,” she said. “With my dad’s health issue, I realized that I needed to get on this.”

She started taking classes at Southeast in January 2016, taking advantage of online classes and classes at the Cape Girardeau and Sikeston campuses. The reception from students and professors was very inspiring to McDonald. She particularly appreciated the support from Pamela Mills, an instructor in the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics.

“Everyone was so welcoming and sweet to me,” McDonald said. “Pam Mills’ classes were challenging, but she was enthusiastic. She recognized the non-traditional students’ unique situations and needs.”

Now, McDonald wants others to know it is possible to return to college to earn a degree and have fun while doing it.

“Southeast is a great place to go as an adult,” she said.

She says her parents, in their 80s, are very excited their daughter is receiving her degree, and they are travelling from Ohio this weekend to share this milestone with her. She is thrilled they will be in attendance.

“I feel that they’ve expected this for a long time, and it has plagued me,” McDonald said. “I’m lucky that my parents are still around and I can share the moment with them.”

After graduation, McDonald plans to move back to Ohio to be closer to her family. She will continue her jewelry business and explore teaching options.