Mom, son share journey to University of Tenn. graduations

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HUNTINGDON, Tenn. (AP) — As Jeanne Prince received her diploma from the University of Tennessee at Martin earlier this month, she recalls she couldn't help but notice "that look of pride" on her son's face.

Days later, it was her turn to show that pride as her son Richard Cody Prince graduated at UT's flagship campus in Knoxville.

The mother and son, both of Huntingdon, Tennessee, are members of the UT class of 2015.

For her, it's a degree in nursing. For him, it's a degree from the College Scholars program with an emphasis in science policy and administration and a second major in physics with an academic focus.

Mother and son each said they are proud of the other and agree they were essential to each other's success. But they couldn't resist some playful teasing.

She won't let her son forget, for example, that her graduation came five days before his.

"She rubbed it in my face a little that she beat me to the degree," the son said.

Jeanne, a single mom, enrolled in college courses on and off throughout her son's life. When he was 12, she left a well-paying factory job to become a licensed practical nurse and take a step closer to her dream of being a nurse. She worked in an emergency room and said she loved helping others.

"I could tell I was making a difference," she said.

But when her son was preparing for college, Jeanne said she knew if she was going to tell him how important school was, she had to "walk the talk" and set an example. Plus, she said becoming a registered nurse gave her more opportunity to advance.

For Richard — whose mother sometimes calls him Cody — a self-described "quintessential science nerd," college was never a question. For Jeanne, he served as her motivation.

The two could be playfully competitive with their grade-point averages, and Jeanne said she'd turn to her son for homework advice.

"He was strict on me," she said.

They were there for each other to lean on. Jeanne said junior year was tough for both of them, but they helped each other with phone calls and support.

That tutoring and support will continue as each heads to graduate school. Richard is going to the University of California at Irvine to continue his passion of studying and lobbying for science. Jeanne plans to start an online program in January to receive her master's and doctoral degrees in nursing.

Jeanne said her son grew up in awe of his grandfather's UT class ring.

"I'm going to get one just like that," she recalls him saying.

Now Richard has his own ring with a torchbearer on one side. The torchbearer stands in the shadows so someone else can stand in the light, and that's what Richard's grandfather did for him, Jeanne said.

She has a torchbearer of her own.

"Cody's been mine," she said.


Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel,

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