Andrea Krigbaum graduated from Charleston Southern University with a bachelor's degree and a story that will inspire others.
Krigbaum, 38, had been away from college for 15 years when she returned in 2008 to complete her degree in music.
She was one of 281 students who received an undergraduate degree at Charleston Southern's commencement ceremony at the North Charleston Coliseum Saturday. Fifty-nine students were awarded graduate degrees at the event. Eighty percent of the graduates were from South Carolina, and about 30 percent were from the Lowcountry.
Krigbaum left the university when she was younger because she lacked confidence, and was overwhelmed with fears and insecurities, she said.
She got married, had a child and taught children at a church school. But the unfinished degree gnawed at her, a loose end that needed to be tied.
A few years ago, the school where she was teaching closed. That pushed her back to the university.
Krigbaum said she chose Charleston Southern not only for the academics, but also for the Christian perspective. Her faith is the center of her life, she said, and she wouldn't have made it through college without her faith, family and friends.
She wants other people who are living with an incomplete college degree or any other unfinished task to know that there is a lot of support out there for people who face their fears and finish what's left undone. "There really is a second chance, or a third or a fourth, if you have faith," she said.
Commencement speaker S. Truett Cathy, the founder and chairman of Chik-fil-A, also talked to students about the importance of faith and Christian values.
Cathy, whose company now has 1,484 restaurants in 38 states and the District of Columbia, told students that there isn't any conflict between Christian values and good business practices.
He also encouraged students to be responsible for themselves. "It's a do-it-yourself world," he said. "You can't blame your parents, or not having parents" for failures in life.
Students of all ages attend Charleston Southern, and that's evident in the Rhodes family. Ben Rhodes, 21, graduated with a bachelor's degree in youth ministry and a minor in music. His mother, Kelly Rhodes, 47, graduated with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education.
Ben Rhodes said that, at times, it was a bit embarrassing to have his mother attending the same college. Some of those times happened when he was a freshman and was having car problems. His mother had to drive him to school. But overall it worked out well, he said.
Kelly Rhodes wasn't planning on earning a four-year degree after finishing an associate's degree earlier in her life.
But then her husband, who is a pastor, suffered a dissected aorta about seven years ago. Rhodes and her husband discussed how his illness might affect their family's future. And they decided she should earn a degree so she would have a way to support the family if he was unable to do so.
Her husband is much better, but still has medical challenges, she said. She's job hunting now, and hopes to soon find her first job with her new degree.
Kelly Rhodes has always loved working with children. She homeschooled her own children, so earning a degree in a early childhood education was a natural choice for her.
Going back to school was "a long haul," she said. "If you're going to pursue something, it might as well be something you're passionate about."
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or email@example.com.