Woman holding banner at convocation

Carrying on a Tradition

Suzanne Boettcher headshot

First published on The Nontraditional Learner Blog

By Laura Stone

The College of Liberal Studies convocation Banner Carrier honor is a decades-long tradition. Each semester a small committee of faculty and advisers bring their nominations and from all the names submitted, and after much deliberation, one candidate is chosen. Though we know every student has had their own challenges and spectacular achievements, the final candidate is chosen for their extraordinary story of accomplishment.

This Saturday, graduates attending the College of Liberal Studies convocation will be led in by Suzanne Boettcher, a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies graduate whose journey reflects the spirit with which our college was founded 50 years ago.

Suzanne, originally from Rochester, New York, has lived in Oklahoma for 44 years. She started at the University of Oklahoma in 1966 but put her educational goals on hold when she met and married her husband Fred Boettcher in 1968. Fred has deep roots in Oklahoma so after marrying the couple moved back to his home town of Ponca City. There he opened a successful law practice and the couple raised four daughters.

Suzanne has always been a passionate volunteer in Ponca City and throughout the state of Oklahoma. She said she was fortunate to not have to work much outside the home and decided to use that opportunity for good. She has spent thousands of hours fundraising, advocating and volunteering for numerous non-profit organizations.

Though she filled her time and her life with great causes designed to help fulfill the needs of her community, she still wanted to fulfill her own desire to finish what she’d started so long ago, a degree from the University of Oklahoma. Suzanne said, “Even with these accomplishments I continued to feel my greatest challenge was ahead of me.”

Suzanne said she takes great pride in her children and the fact that each one has attained their master’s degree but thought she’d missed her opportunity to do the same, “My children had fulfilled their college dreams, but I didn’t know I still had the ability to achieve mine.”

At the age of 64, tackling a college education seemed out of the question, but fueled by the confidence others had in her and with the continuous financial support and enthusiastic encouragement of her husband, Suzanne decided it was time to step out of her comfort zone and pursue her education.

Her brother-in-law Mike Boettcher, an ABC News Correspondent and professor at the School of Journalism, and his wife told Suzanne about the College of Liberal Studies program and explained its flexible online delivery. The possibility of finally finishing her degree was overwhelming so she decided to apply.

After 44 years away from the classroom, Suzanne said she remembers her first class and opening the book to read the assignment, “At this point, the magnitude of my commitment was overwhelming and frightening, but the College of Liberal Studies supported me throughout the process.”

Suzanne’s story of determination is amazing, but perhaps what made Suzanne a great candidate for the honor of this commencement’s Banner Carrier is her reason for getting her degree, “Getting my degree was not about prestige or money, instead it was the fulfillment of a personal goal I thought unattainable.  I emerged from my journey with the realization that, 64 years of experience had led me down this path of success.”

She said she hopes to be an example for other women to challenge themselves to achieve educational goals for themselves. She also said she has great expectations for her four grandchildren, that they too will pursue every educational opportunity afforded them with the knowledge that no matter what, and education is something no one can ever take away.

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