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Common ground - Central Oregonian

January 9, 2013
Crook County High School

When Grace Deboodt walked at commencement for her college graduation last June, she didn’t know that she would join some of her old students and her daughter at the ceremony.

To make the story even more unique, Grace and her daughter share the same name, Grace-Renee´ Deboodt, and both attended Eastern Oregon University before their commencement last year.

Young Grace, always called Grace-Renee´, and “Mama” Grace — as many of her friends and students call her — didn’t plan on having the culmination of their education journeys come together, but they were happy it turned out that way.

“It just doesn’t happen every day,” exclaimed Mama Grace of the timing of the event. “It was a special day in my life.”

For this mother-daughter duo, graduating from college together was a momentous and special event. In addition to sharing the same name, (Grace-Renee´ is the fourth generation of the same family name), but they shared their special day at Eastern Oregon University on a vibrant, sunny day last spring.

Grace-Renee´ received her Master’s Degree in Business Administration and her mother earned her Master’s Degree of Science in Curriculum and Instruction. Grace-Renee´ works for Farm Credit Services in Eugene, and the elder Deboodt has been an elementary instructor for Crook County School District for 20 years. Both had different education goals when they began their degree programs, and both took very different paths — with young Grace attending classes on campus, and Mama Grace taking all online classes.

On commencement day, both Graces were seated with their peers in their prospective tents — which are separated by the degree earned. Mama Grace commented that it was an emotional time for her.

“When I heard the Pomp and Circumstances being played, tears streamed down my face,” she said. Then she turned around when someone said, “Hey Mrs. Deboodt.”

There stood four of her old students from fourth grade.

“I thought to myself, how lucky I have been in my life,” she reflected. She had the privilege to graduate with not only some of her old students, but her daughter. She had also been blessed with a wonderful job she had enjoyed for 20 years.

“I recognized my good fortune. I count my blessings every day.”

Young Grace was the first to go onto the stage and receive her diploma. When her mother received her certificate, the photographer got in place for a picture. Although she wasn’t supposed to get out of line, young Grace broke rank and ran over to have a picture taken with her.

“You can’t do that,” exclaimed a ceremony facilitator.

“That’s my mom,” countered young Grace as she ran over and gave her mother a hug.

At the same time, several people in the crowd shouted, “Way to go Mama Grace.”

“We got to graduate at the same time and place, so that was pretty cool,” said Grace- Renee´.

Young Grace has been involved in sports her entire life, as have her brothers. The many sporting events and activities in their family have always been a gathering place, and Grace-Renee´’s participation at Eastern Oregon University was no exception. Mama Grace noted that she became acquainted with many other families, students, and instructors on campus by participating as a spectator at the events.

When asked if there was ever confusion when both Graces were enrolled as students, she said that she did get some text messages during track season that she needed to turn in her uniform.

“It’s been fun, and it has made me feel so welcome by the athletes who have called me “Mama Grace,” she commented. “From Crook County to Eastern Oregon University — they are all great kids.”

Grace, the instructor, will keep teaching, and young Grace will resume her job at Farm Credit Services. They may, however, have a tough time topping that special event at commencement last spring.

“It was an incredible day,” said both Graces.

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