It's a family affair: Mother, son graduate from Penn State in August

August 04, 2006

University Park, Pa. -- When Lori Bertschman began her Penn State education 12 years ago, she never imagined that she would be receiving her degree the same day as her eldest son. But that's exactly what will happen on Saturday, Aug. 12, when Lori and Matthew Bertschman both receive their bachelor's degrees at Penn State University Park's commencement ceremony.

"Graduating from Penn State is a big achievement for me, but graduating at the same time as my son is an incredible feeling," said Lori Bertschman. "I just can't begin to tell you how proud I am of Matt and his accomplishment."

Although the two did not coordinate their graduation dates, the mother will be receiving her bachelor of science in business and the son will be receiving a bachelor of arts in communication arts and sciences at the same commencement ceremony with their family present. The two have reached the same finishing line, but they have taken two very different paths.

While Lori Bertschman was working full-time at Agere, a global telecommunications firm, she began taking Penn State Berks courses that were offered on site. When the branch where she worked closed in 2005, she ended her 25-year career with the company and decided to return to school full time and earn a bachelor's degree in business.

She already was familiar with Penn State, and although other colleges tried to recruit her, she said, "I knew I wanted Penn State on my resume."

Although she initially had some reservations about returning to school full time as an adult student, Bertschman found the traditional-aged students to be very accepting, friendly and helpful.

When asked what it was like to take attend the same campus as her son, she laughed and said it was a little awkward at first, but they soon got past it.

"I think it was more odd for other people," Matt Bertschman added. "I was used to her going to school."

They even took one course together in the summer of 2005: Fitness Theory and Practice. Mother and sont joked about competing against each other for a better grade. Both received an "A" in the course, but they teased each other about who actually had a higher grade point average in the class, a fact the professor would not reveal.

Although they varied in their study habits, the two encouraged and learned from each other.

"Taking the health-and-fitness class with Matt was the greatest memory of the experience," she said. "We would study together and drive to class together. He taught me to chill more and I think I taught him to focus more."

Son Matthew followed a more traditional path through college, beginning his studies at Penn State Berks and completing them at University Park. When he had the opportunity to complete his final three courses in Rome this summer and lighten his spring course load, he jumped at the chance, even though it pushed his graduation back from May until August.

Meanwhile, his mother completed an internship at Berks Economic Partnership this summer, which opened the door to a full-time position with the United Way of Berks County as a campaign associate. She will begin her new position in September.

"My work experience gave me a solid foundation, but I have learned much more through my formal education that I can take into the business world," she said. "You can't beat the education and the personal attention that you get from the professors."

What does the future hold for Matt Bertschman? He will begin working for City Year in Philadelphia this fall. City Year is a service organization that unites more than 1,000 young adults, ages 17-24, from diverse backgrounds for a demanding year of full-time community service, leadership development and civic engagement.

"Life is about experience, and my time at Penn State gave me an experience most students don't get to have," he said. "Not only going to the same school as my mom, but taking the same class and graduating with her has given me some of the greatest and most rewarding lessons in my life. The unending road of education can lead one in many directions; I feel the similar path my mom and I have taken will forever define us as individuals."

  • Mom and son Lori and Matt Bertschman will graduate together on Aug. 12.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010