Graduate Billie McBride: Nontraditional student finds motivation from two generations of family

Billie McBride and her family

May 6, 2019

Billie McBride is the first in her family to graduate from NAU.

She isn’t the first Lumberjack, though. In 1954, her father came to NAU on a football scholarship. He blew out his knee early in his career and couldn’t afford tuition, so he dropped out and got a job.

That family history has been on McBride’s mind as she re-entered the world of higher education after her divorce, earning an associate’s degree from Eastern Arizona College before finding NAU’s general and special education dual certification program. It was a great fit for the career she wanted and to close the door her father left open 64 years ago.

“As I get closer, I know I am doing it for both of us,” she said. “When I was younger, I struggled in school. My father saw potential in me even when I gave up. I have striven to do my best in my college classes, and I push myself to show him I can be a straight A student and graduate with honors.”

McBride’s journey didn’t involve a knee injury, but it wasn’t an easy process for her either. She studied while working full-time and raising four children who are now teenagers and young adults.

As much as that made her work harder, though, it also gave her purpose. Even though she still has student teaching ahead of her, she opted to walk in the May graduation so her daughter, who’s leaving soon for a church mission, could attend. Her children motivated her to finish, just as they motivated her to start.

She also credited the opportunities for collaboration with her fellow students and her professors, particularly Anthony Osborn, a faculty member in the general and special education dual certification program. She was able to turn to him for help, she said; Osborn, in turn, talked about the kind of student Osborn was.

“In the time that I have had the pleasure of knowing her, I have been amazed at her resiliency, tenacity and dedication to her studies,” he said. “She has juggled her responsibilities as a mother, has been a dedicated daughter to her ailing mother, worked full-time and contributed to her community.”

Billie McBride and family at EAC graduation

After completing her student teaching, McBride is hoping to take over as a full-time teacher in the elementary school class where she is now the long-term substitute.

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Heidi Toth | NAU Communications
(928) 523-8737 | heidi.toth@nau.edu