Mother, Two Daughters Make History With Same-Day Graduation

Published 05.17.2003

Student News

A Northumberland County mother and two of her daughters have made Pennsylvania College of Technology history, graduating at the same time during Spring Commencement ceremonies in the Community Arts Center in downtown Williamsport.

Colleen M. Krall, 49, 36 Loop Road, Watsontown, received a bachelor's degree in Business Management; daughter Brandee J., 30, Milton, earned her bachelor's in the same program (both minored in International Business), and 26-year-old Rebecca E., also of Watsontown, received an associate's degree in Computer-Aided Drafting.

This year's class also includes a father-son pair: Michael L. Byers, 43, of Milton, and Matthew L., 23, of RR 4 Milton both Graphic Design majors.

Additionally, several siblings have graduated simultaneously in the past, and last year's ceremonies saw a third-generation student cross the stage. But the Kralls' accomplishment truly is groundbreaking, and was not lost on Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, Penn College president.

"I mention them, not only to salute their achievement, and certainly not to single them out among the rest of this graduating class," Dr. Gilmour said in her commencement remarks Saturday. "I am particularly proud of the Kralls because of what they represent a textbook case of lifelong learning, and a bedrock example of what a Penn College education is all about."

The College and its predecessors were founded on the principle that it's never too late to learn, a lesson that Colleen found in her first classroom though she didn't immediately recognize it.

She came to Penn College from a store/restaurant manager's position, which offered little room for advancement. So, she enrolled "Something I've always wanted to do, a dream even when the children were younger. (The Kralls' offspring include another daughter and a son.)

"When I started, I was intimidated by all of the younger students around me," she said, recalling the watershed moment that accompanied a first-year public-speaking class. "We each gave an impromptu speech about a life-changing event (she chose the birth of her first grandchild) and, when I was done, another student turned to me and said, 'I could just cry.'"

"It was then that I realized, 'I guess I DO have something to offer.'"

A large part of that "something" was inspiration for her daughters: Brandee also became a student in January 1999 with an "If-Mom-can-do-it" attitude, and Rebecca signed on a few years later.

Their experience at Penn College has not been without struggle. Brandee, for instance, juggled motherhood and academics (although having her son enrolled in kindergarten at the on-campus Children's Learning Center helped), and her mother found too few hours in the day for the competing demands of home and school.

"It's been difficult," Colleen said. "I've gone to campus as often as three times in one day. There have been times when I've stayed up all night with homework and papers, and there were many nights when I had to tell my husband, 'Supper's over there.'"

It has not been without its high points, though. Brandee and her mother both received the Business Management Faculty Award during commencement, both are members of the Alpha Chi four-year honor society and both recently were inducted into the College's new Sigma Beta Delta honor-society chapter for business-related students.

Colleen also was awarded the Penn College Scholarship Ride scholarship in 2000-01 and 2001-02, and the family has consistently volunteered for the annual motorcycle/automobile event in recent years.

In addition, all three shared their talents as tutors: Colleen in English, Brandee in economics and Spanish, and Rebecca in CAD. How does it feel to be a teacher and a learner at the same time? "It's hard," Rebecca said. "I might understand something right away, but you sometimes have to slow down and make sure you can explain it to someone else."

"Slowing down" doesn't otherwise seem to be in the Kralls' vocabulary. Colleen already is committed to take the three-and-a-half-hour Civil Service test for possible employment by the state Department of Public Assistance, Rebecca is in the midst of classes toward her four-year degree, and Brandee has returned to the frenzied world of motherhood while she plans her next step.

"As anxious as we are to leave, we'll probably feel some withdrawal when we don't have a class to attend next week," Brandee said. "We've really enjoyed our time at Penn College."

And who among them is happiest at the conclusion of this historic journey? Their husband and father, Mark H. Krall, a behind-the-scenes cheerleader who was among the most proud at Saturday morning's ceremony.

"He has been very supportive," Colleen said. "But I think he will appreciate us graduating!"