Young Widow Finds New Purpose in Education

Tracy Mathis believes it’s never too late to fulfill a dream. Now a senior in the College of Liberal Studies, she persevered after the loss of her husband, Gene, from pancreatic cancer in 2000 to bring up their three children alone.

“We had just purchased our first home and six months later my kids and I were left with nothing but the home and mortgage, no insurance and very little income,” she said. Although grief-stricken, looking after and homeschooling her children became Mathis’ saving grace, she said: “I have always grown and endured the most when things were the toughest.”

Today, Mathis runs a home-based medical transcription business, is finishing her senior year in the College of Liberal Studies and teaches two choir classes for Norman Area Home Educators. She not only believes in the transforming power of education for herself but for her children as well. Mathis returned to college as a working adult, inspiring her children to follow her example. Jacob, 23, Sam, 18, and Kisha, 16, finished their high school requirements and are now attending college at Oklahoma State University and doing great.

“My CLS degree will mean that I finished what I started so many years ago, and it will also show my children that if silly old Mom can do this thing, so can we.”

“I returned to college to increase my earning potential to support the kids while they were going to college,” Mathis said. “When I first started college I had to work so hard that my grades suffered as a result. I wanted my kids to be able to focus on their education, holding only part-time jobs while going to college. I really have worked hard to encourage them in getting that degree and use myself as an example of why you should have that degree. You never know what life has in store for you and if you prepare at a younger age, then you might have a fighting chance to survive intact.”

Setting An Example

But earning a degree is only part of her motivation. “My CLS degree will mean that I finished what I started so many years ago, and it will also show my children that if silly old Mom can do this thing, so can we. But, most of all, I proved to myself that I still have what it takes to accomplish a goal and reach for a dream after all these years of squelched aspirations. It is never too late to dream a little dream.

“I will eventually teach at the junior college level, hopefully at a local school,” Mathis continued. “I want to teach the positive aspects of choices and power through encouragement and mentoring, giving confidence to our youth because I had no confidence growing up and am just learning that I may have a little after all. Teaching and helping others was always my dream.”

With plans to enter graduate school after receiving her bachelor’s degree, Tracy’s goal to teach is well within reach.

Update: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017. 

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The College of Professional and Continuing Studies is a fully accredited academic unit of the University of Oklahoma, offering 100% online, hybrid and onsite degrees for working adults and non-traditional students.