Making graduation a family affair

On June 12, thousands of Portland State graduates will pack the Rose Garden Arena for the spring 2011 commencement ceremony.

On June 12, thousands of Portland State graduates will pack the Rose Garden Arena for the spring 2011 commencement ceremony. While friends and relatives traditionally fill the crowded stands cheering on their loved ones, at least one PSU family will join together on stage, all donning caps and gowns.

Scott Carlson, along with his wife Judy and son Ken, will take the stage this month as each member receives their degree—all three earning a bachelor’s degree in social science. For Scott, this event marks a journey more than 30 years in the making.

Scott first attended PSU straight out of Beaverton High School in 1973 but admitted that his credit load began slowly dwindling as he wasn’t yet sure what he wanted to do. Ultimately, he left PSU altogether.

It wasn’t until 2001 that, after attending his wife’s in-class presentation at Portland Community College, he even considered going back to school.

“After her class that day, I found I really enjoyed it,” Scott said. “So I went into the office at PSU and got my transcript. They still had it after 30 years.”

Shortly thereafter, Scott enrolled at PCC with his wife.

“I really have to give credit to Judy,” Scott said. “After I left in the ’70s I always regretted leaving. I never thought in a million years I’d end up back here. Now I have my degree.”

After years of juggling a full-time job, family and school, Scott received his associate’s degree from PCC, having taken one night class per term for five straight years.

“I took summer classes as well; sometimes I had to double up and take two, but generally just one at a time,” he joked.

In 2006, the year they were married, both Scott and Judy transferred to PSU. Judy, who, unlike her husband, never attended college, had been attending PCC since the mid 1990s, allowing more time to make up the difference in credits her husband had already accrued. While balancing a full-time job as a hairdresser and her schooling, she completed her associate’s degree the same way as her husband—one class at a time.

As often as possible, Scott and his wife would take classes together, which, considering their identical majors, was a frequent occurrence.

“We saved on gas commuting, we studied together, we only needed one book and we always had something to talk about,” Scott laughed.

As graduation draws near, Scott is completing his final credit, painting for non-majors, a course his wife could not take with him, as she already attained her fine arts credits.

With more than 30 years in the electrical construction industry and just five years left until retirement, he admitted that he never plans to use his degree in the field. Instead, attaining his degree was a personal hurdle he felt compelled to pursue.

Scott’s son, Ken, will also be graduating with his bachelor’s degree in social science. ?