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Cynthia Wade ’18 faced down the Vietnam War, personal setbacks and even a homicide in her family to earn her degree at Pacific.

Cynthia Wade ’18 faced down the Vietnam War, personal setbacks and even a homicide in her family to earn her degree at Pacific.

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Pacific News

Reflecting on her journey: 64-year-old student graduates from Pacific

Jul 17, 2018

The journey for Cynthia Wade '18 to earn her bachelor's degree at Pacific was longer than most. It spanned decades.

Along the way, she faced down the Vietnam War, personal delays and setbacks, and even a homicide in her family.

But in May, as one of the oldest members of the Class of 2018, she donned a cap and gown and walked with fellow graduates to pick up her diploma and celebrate an end to that journey and the beginning of a new one. Now, at age 64, Wade can make plans for a bright future.

"If I'm going to dream, I'm going to dream something big," she said.

Despite a desire for education from a young age, Wade didn't immediately attend college after graduating from an alternative high school. Instead, she chose activism by protesting the Vietnam War and volunteering for community projects. She knew she wanted to continue learning, so over the years, she took community college classes while volunteering at alternative high schools and nonprofit organizations.

Wade planned on getting a bachelor's degree after her two sons grew up, but her sister died and left behind 2-year-old twins for her to raise. Again, her degree had to wait.

Years later in 2013, her education was still calling her, so she attended San Joaquin Delta College with an eye toward eventually earning a bachelor's degree in library and information science. While at Delta College, one of the twins, Malik, was killed. Wade mourned while in class the next day.

"School was the only sane thing in my life at the time. It anchored me," she said.

Wade spent two years at Delta College and left with two associate degrees, one in arts, humanities and social sciences and another in teacher education preparation. She felt like a mentor to the other students, especially since she was 40 years their senior. She motivated classmates and led study groups in the library where she was an assistant. When someone told her Pacific's University Library stayed open late, she knew she had found her new study spot.

Walking on Pacific's Stockton Campus for the first time, Wade knew she belonged. She knew she wanted to be at Pacific. She attended an African-American forum during Preview Day, made connections, and learned about Pacific's organizational behavior degree completion program.

Because the program is designed for working adults and offers flexible classes, discounted tuition, and the possibility of scholarships and financial aid, Wade was able to finish her degree in 20 months.

"There are so many things you can do with an organizational behavior degree; it will serve anyone well," she said. "For most people, this is a great opportunity to fulfill your dreams. It doesn't matter how long you've been out of school, you will still be able to complete it and finish what you started."

Wade plans to pursue her doctoral degree in library and information science. She also plans to raise $10 million through fundraisers and grants to form a foundation that will establish an African-American-centered library and garden. In the meantime, she hopes to teach at a community college, help children with their literacy and travel to the University of Cape Town in South Africa to work on her dissertation. Pacific has been a stepping stone for Wade to reach her purpose.

Discover your purpose at Pacific.

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