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Earning a degree is an exciting accomplishment. That excitement will reach a whole new level on May 7 when three members of the Horn family earn three different degrees from three different colleges during UNI’s spring commencement ceremony.
Roark (rhymes with “fork”) Horn, who serves as chief administrator of Area Education Agency 267 in Cedar Falls, will earn his doctor of education degree. His eldest daughter, Shannon Horn Erb (graphic communications ’08), left, will earn her master’s degree in communication studies; youngest daughter Megan Horn will earn her bachelor’s degree in marketing.
“I was working on my degree and thought I’d delay it a bit because everybody deserves their time [in the sun],” said Roark. “Shannon and Megan worked extremely hard to earn their degrees and I didn’t want to override that. But they were very persuasive and put pressure on me to finish so we could graduate together. I’ve been telling them ‘no’ all their lives. I thought maybe on one thing I could give them what they wanted!”
This spring, UNI was slated to hold its traditional three ceremonies for commencement. Roark, Shannon and Megan are graduating from three of the university’s five colleges (education, humanities and fine arts, and business, respectively), which meant they would each receive their diploma at a different ceremony. With the addition of first lady Michelle Obama as commencement speaker, the three ceremonies merged into one, which will allow Roark, Shannon and Megan to see one another walk across the stage during the same ceremony.
“Family is so important to us that to have us all graduate at the same time is pretty cool,” said Megan. “We’re in three completely different disciplines, and this just shows that UNI has strong programs all the way around. Plus, having the first lady as the commencement speaker adds another memorable moment to what will already be a special day.”
Three family members in college at the same time meant a quiet home for Jean Horn, wife and mother of the graduates. “I’m sure it was tough on her, having us all in school, working so hard at the same time,” said Shannon. “We had a lot of outside commitments and were not able to spend as much time with her. But she has us back now!”
“She’s our support system, the glue for us,” said Roark, complimenting his wife. “She understands the value of education because she has her master’s degree and is a teacher, so I think she’s very excited about us graduating together.”
After a post-ceremony family celebration, life will return to a more manageable pace. Roark will return to the helm at AEA 267, Shannon will return to her marketing and graphic design position at the Grout Museum in Waterloo and Megan will begin work at Cedar Falls-based advertising agency ME&V. “The fact that we all chose to stay in the area speaks highly of UNI and the Cedar Valley,” said Roark.
“This is also a testament to UNI – the community, the education you receive here, all the people we worked with,” said Shannon. “It’s because of UNI that this is actually happening.”
As they contemplate their academic futures, daughters Shannon and Megan say they just might return to school for another degree. Shannon is considering earning a doctorate in communication studies with an emphasis on nonverbal communication to realize her long-term goal of becoming a university professor. Megan is giving thought to earning her M.B.A. and sharing real-world professional experience with students as an adjunct professor.
In the short term, however, Roark, Shannon and Megan are ready for spring commencement. “While we’re all looking forward to it,” said Roark, “we also know the day is not the achievement; it’s all the work that went into receiving our degrees that’s the achievement.”