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Grandmother Graduate Looks Back On Her “Exciting Journey”

UC employee Arrietta Hairston says she was raised with a philosophy that emphasized lending a helping hand. As she neared graduation, she discovered her husband would suddenly need that support the most.

Date: 6/7/2004
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
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Arrietta Hairston

Arrietta Hairston says her pathway to a college degree has been an exciting journey – but it’s a journey that has been filled with peaks and valleys for this UC student loan officer. Arrietta started working at UC in 1985 and four years later took college classes just to explore her interests. She says that by 1999, she decided it was time to “get serious” about pursuing a degree program. She felt a bachelor’s degree in human resources was a good fit. “I really like helping people develop themselves. I want to train and educate them. I just feel it’s important to reach out and lend a hand to help someone through their trial or to their goal.”

The Evanston mother of two and grandmother of four was careful not to carry too heavy a class load, working her education around her full-time job, family and busy volunteer schedule at her church, Christ Emmanuel Christian Fellowship, as well as her volunteer time with her church at the Communicare of Clifton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Inc. She recalls that she was able to carry 12 credit hours over one quarter last year, by taking classes on the weekends.

“I thought that this had been on my plate for so long, and I was thinking about taking a heavier course load again when my husband became ill. He was diagnosed last winter. That’s when I had to decide what was important.”

Arrietta is now with her husband, Edward, each time he goes for treatments to battle colon cancer. But she’s still achieving her dream of marching in Commencement this spring. “I had to think about what was important. I had to let go of serving on a labor management committee, and I took a leave from serving on the board of directors for a private Christian school, and I even took a leave from my church choir this quarter. I needed to focus on my husband and my job and my classes.”

Arrietta Hairston in her office in University Pavilion.

She adds that her strength comes from visiting her church, as well as from the positive attitude of her husband. “Through all of this, he has never complained. I’m still trying to learn that lesson. He is really a source of encouragement for me. My faith in God keeps me grounded and attending my local fellowship allows me an opportunity to be refreshed.”

Edward and other members of Arrietta’s family will celebrate her achievement at the All-University Commencement June 11. Arrietta will also join the Ushindi celebration sponsored by the African American Cultural and Research Center at 9 p.m. Friday, June 11, in the Great Hall, and will attend the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 12, in the Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center.

“This particular chapter is coming to an end and I’m excited about what lies ahead,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to God showing me where I’m going to go and what I’m going to do with this new degree. And I know he will guide me.”




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