HAMMOND | Sue Goodwin, 50, is the first person in her family to earn a university baccalaureate degree.
Receiving her diploma during Purdue University Calumet commencement exercises Tuesday at the Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville was her latest achievement in a long and unconventional educational journey.
The Chicago native attended the city’s Carver Area High School, but dropped out. While working and raising her children, however, she was persuaded by her mother to resume her education and attend college.
“My mom only went to school through the eighth grade,” Goodwin said. “I talked to her, and she said, ‘I want you to go to school.’”
Goodwin obtained an associate degree in business administration from nearby South Suburban College in 2005. She enrolled at PUC in 2006 to pursue a bachelor's degree in organizational communication.
The demands of maintaining a full-time job as a bank administrative assistant challenged her bachelor’s degree pursuit. But by combining evening, weekend and online classes as a part-time student with various personal sacrifices, she succeeded.
“It could be very rough,” she said. “I had to give up all forms of entertainment. I couldn’t take any overtime at work, and there were times when I had to force myself to do homework.
"But I’m a disciplined person, period. I talked to my [bank supervisor] and my family, and I made it known that this is what I was going to do.”
Goodwin’s family supported her through it all.
“There were times I felt she was taking on too much,” her brother, Joey Sherman, said, “[but] she didn't let anyone come between [her and] what she set out to do.”
In addition to family support, Goodwin benefited academically from her work experience, which is related to some of her course work. “What I did in the classroom I was already doing at the bank,” she said.
Her persistence also rubbed off on classmates, according to one her instructors, Professor of Communication Theresa Carilli.
“[She] is an engaged learner who adds so much to the classroom,” Carilli said. “The students see her as a leader and role model.”
So does her brother, Charles Jones Jr., who credits his sister’s success for motivating him to pursue post-secondary education in preparation for becoming an ordained minister.
“If it weren't for Susie, I would have never thought about going after my dream of becoming a pastor,” Jones, 64, said. “If she can do it, so can I.”
Goodwin, meanwhile, plans to continue her studies at the master’s degree level.