Pullman hotel space is scarce during commencement weekend, Howe said. “So I figured why not party – all the way down and back – with those who want to watch me walk across the stage?”
She and 30 or so family and friends will leave the Davenport at 8:30 a.m. on May 8. They’ll enjoy breakfast, coffee, champagne and orange juice during the bus ride to Pullman. They’ll attend commencement and explore campus before heading back to Spokane for a dinner party.
Howe first came to WSU in 1972.
“I took great pride in being a Cougar,” she said. “I was even a Cougarette.” The now defunct Cougarettes danced during half time shows and in the Spokane Lilac Festival parade. “We wore short skirts and knee length white patent leather boots – very ’70s.”
Howe left WSU after a year to study fashion at Brooks College in Long Beach, Calif. She went on to a long career in the fashion industry, working first for a dress company, then for a promotional company. “Along the way, I got married and finally gave up the fast-paced travel life for motherhood,” she said. “I’ve never regretted that decision.” More... Howe lives in Los Alamitos, Calif., just east of Long Beach. When she decided to complete her degree, she wanted to finish where she started.
“I looked at options in California,” she said, “but nothing resonated with me as much as being able to say I graduated from WSU.” Because Pullman is 1,100 miles from Los Alamitos, Howe enrolled in WSU Online.
Howe is majoring in human development, with a minor in aging. “Aging is a growing national concern,” she said, “and, let’s be honest, I am getting closer to being considered elderly.”
At 56, Howe is far from elderly. And her studies, she said, have made her feel even younger. “It’s humbling to be a student at my age, but it is also energizing, fulfilling, and inspiring,” she said. “I brag about how much fun this has been to everyone I talk with.”
Howe needs to complete an internship, so won’t officially get her degree until August. Since there is no summer commencement, students who are a few credits short can walk in the spring ceremony.
Howe’s mother, father, niece and son are all WSU alumni, and Howe is the last member of her immediate family to earn a college degree.
“This has been the greatest thing I have ever done for myself,” she said. “My family tells me all the time how proud of me they are.”
By Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education