Kena and Samantha Lederle started classes at Columbia College on the same day. Samantha enrolled in the Day Campus right after high school. Kena, her mother and assistant director for Columbia College’s Online Student Services, spent 20 years forging a career before going back to college.

Columbia College President Scott Dalrymple addresses the crowd at the commencement ceremony in Southwell Complex on April 29.
(Photo by Kaci Smart)

They supported each other through their studies and even took some of the same courses, although Kena always seemed to earn slightly higher marks.

After entering school together, they earned their degrees on the same day as well: Saturday, April 29, during Columbia College’s morning commencement ceremony at Southwell Complex. Kena received her Bachelor of General Studies, with a minor in business, while Samantha earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Services. Mike Lederle, who serves as director of Columbia College’s Rolla location, met both his wife and his daughter at the end of the stage, to present them with their diplomas and share a hug.

Samantha walked first. Her mother followed immediately after.

“I’ve always admired my mom. So, to walk across the stage with her, it’s pretty awesome,” Samantha said.

“It has been quite an honor and a privilege to go through it with her and complete it all together,” Kena added.

Out of the more than 500 students who walked at Columbia College’s two April 29 commencement ceremonies, 13 got the added bonus of having a family member who is part of the college’s faculty or staff hand them their diploma on the stage at Southwell Complex.

In addition to the Lederles, other families who took part in this special tradition were:

  • Marketing office manager Kelly Enright and his son, Joseph
  • Rolla student support assistant Terrance Cobb and his wife, Demeeka
  • Los Alamitos location director Carl David and his daughter, Sarah
  • Military services associate Tiffany Hargis and her son, Cleveland
  • TRiO Student Support Services assistant director Amy Rigg and her husband, Jeffrey
  • Rolla adjunct instructor Steve Blakley and his daughter, Shelby
  • Main campus custodian Walt Huntsucker and his daughter, Elaine Nelson
  • Fort Leonard Wood location director Mike Siegel and his daughter, Hannah
  • Senior graduate and international programs associate Kelly Sharp and her niece, Rachel Emde
  • Assistant registrar for special processes Diane Hibbs and her daughter, Michele
  • Senior director of Adult Higher Education programs and partnerships Tery Donelson and his daughter, Samantha Loman

Add to that the fact that mother and daughter Elizabeth Kavanaugh and Allie Saunders each received her Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration within seconds of each other, and the scene at Southwell Complex was truly a family affair.

Mike (from left), Kena and Samantha Lederle celebrate Kena and Samantha’s graduation April 29. The mother-daughter tandem earned their bachelor’s degrees on the same day.
(Photo by Sam Fleury)

“We change lives for the better. As I look out at all the blue-clad smart people in front of me, I can see it. I’ve heard from many of you. I know many of you. I know that this place has changed your life for the better,” Dr. Scott Dalrymple, president of Columbia College, said at the event. “You have just changed generations of (your family’s) lives by doing what you’ve done, by achieving what you’ve achieved here today.”

The husband-wife duo of Joe and Jackie Noble made a four-hour drive from Illinois to main campus to celebrate earning their master’s degrees, with their 9-year-old daughter, Kendra, along for the ride. Joe earned his Master of Business Administration on Saturday, after receiving a Bachelor of General Studies (2012) and Master of Arts in Teaching (2016) through Columbia College. Jackie earned her Master of Arts in Teaching after receiving both her Associate in Science in Human Services and Bachelor of General Studies in 2014.

“We accomplished this together as a family, which made it that much more momentous for us,” Joe and Jackie said. “Our goal was to celebrate this occasion with our daughter because she was a huge part of the process, not to mention a beacon in our lives. She is truly our inspiration.”

Joe and Jackie Noble brought their 9-year-old daughter, Kendra, to join in on their accomplishments as they earned master’s degrees April 29.
(Photo by Kaci Smart)

The Nobles coordinated with Sharp so that they could not only walk one after the other even though they were in separate schools, but so Kendra could walk across the stage with them.

She did so holding her mother’s hand, adorned in a matching navy blue cap and gown provided by Herff Jones, a company that provides regalia for commencements around the country

“I felt like a princess in my cap and gown!” said Kendra. “I was so proud of my mom and dad.”

Joe and Jackie are both first-generation college graduates. Kendra wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, so she doubts this is the last time she’ll don the graduation regalia.

“It was so important to share this culminating experience from start to finish with our daughter. And trust us, she was right there with us through many deadlines and study sessions!” Joe and Jackie said. “We just want Kendra to know that anything is possible and that each generation should ‘aspire to inspire’ the next.”