All in the Family

Kathryn, David and Matthew Turner are making Spring Commencement a family affair.                                    Photo: Courtesy of GradImagesTM

A dad and his two children each took different paths at USF and wound up celebrating together during this year's Spring Commencement ceremonies.

By Barbara Melendez

     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (April 23, 2014) – Spring Commencement 2014 at USF holds special meaning for the Turner family. David Turner has earned an Executive MBA from the College of Business, his son Matthew has earned an undergraduate degree in marketing from the College of Business and his daughter Kathryn has earned a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology from the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

How does it feel to have three graduates in one family?

“I am overwhelmed with pride and appreciation,” David said.“As a parent of two graduates, I take great pride in their accomplishments.They have both worked hard and I know that USF has prepared them for a great future.

“As a fellow student, I am grateful to them for accepting me into the Bulls community and taking the time to attend various sporting events with me.It has been a lot of fun taking this trip together as a family!”

His daughter agrees.

“I’m thrilled to share my graduation day with my two favorite men,” says Kathryn. “I think it’s great that we get to share this special day and be there to support each other just like we have this whole time.”

It took a little while for her brother to warm up to the idea.

“At first I was a little bummed because I wanted my graduation to be my day to finally celebrate my accomplishments,” said Matt. “Over time, I have realized that this is something that very, very few people get to experience and I think that being able to celebrate our graduation together will be something that we will always remember.”

Individual Paths

Each took a singular route to and through USF – though connected in part.

In Matthew’s case, he took a detour to get here.

“I switched to marketing from architecture halfway through my college career and it ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am currently working in digital marketing at Busch Gardens Tampa and I love it!”

Kathryn took note early on.

“When I was still a freshman in high school I went with my brother on his first tour of USF. I thought it was a beautiful campus and when Matt decided that he wanted to go to USF, I knew that it must be a great school,” she said. “We would keep in touch and he would tell me all these cool stories about classes he was taking or concerts he was going to and I could not wait to have those experiences for myself.”

But this was nothing new for Kathryn.

“My brother and I have been going to the same school since preschool. I have been able to depend on him to help me get my bearings and become familiar with the way things work, just like in middle and high school.”

Today, Kathryn couldn’t be happier with her choice of major as well, but she wasn’t so sure in the beginning.

“I started USF knowing that I wanted to study speech/language pathology, but after the first year I began to wonder if it was the right choice for me,” she said. “I took a trip over to the Career Center and they had me do some career profiling tests. Funny enough, when they gave me the results, speech/language pathology was at the top of the list as the best choice for me. After that I was able to commit myself to it wholeheartedly and I began doing volunteer work and research outside of my regular classes. The more I learned, the more I love it and I couldn’t be happier.”

A Return to School

On their father’s part, having his children nearby was only an added incentive. He was first attracted by the College of Business program, despite the school’s distance from his home in New Smyrna, Florida, a two-and-a-half hour drive away.

“I really liked the weekend schedule and being part of a single cohort of students,” he said, and he was attracted to the international component which ultimately took him to China, an experience he will always treasure.

At his company of 18 years, AT&T, he was able to use the tuition reimbursement program. He felt the time was right to pick up where he left off in 1989. After graduating from Stetson University he opted to take a job rather than continue his education after being accepted into the school’s MBA program. “It was always in the back of my mind, though,” he said.

Now he says with confidence that the drive was worth it and talks with pride about the number one ranked part-time MBA program among Florida's state universities.

“I found some very real practical applications for what I was learning. I could go back to work with new ideas and bring up real situations in class,” he said.

He also developed “wonderful relationships with all kinds of folks from all walks of life.” With 10 countries represented among the students in his cohort he was exposed to a cross-section of occupations and different perspectives that he found “invaluable.” He expects to continue many of the friendships he made.

Enjoying the Family Ties

In a family of staunch and proud Bulls fans, Kathryn Turner enjoyed many a basketball, football, soccer and baseball game with her father, David, as well as her brother Matthew, who took this photo.

Then there were all the basketball, football, soccer and baseball games he got to enjoy with Matthew and Kathryn. They enjoyed their time with him, too.

“Some people might think it’s embarrassing having their dad sit next to them at a football game or a soccer game, but I enjoy the extra time I get to spend with my dad,” Kathryn said. “I think that a lot of college students build closer relationships with their parents after they move out of the house. That was certainly the case for me and I was glad to get to have the chance to bond with my dad over dinner or while cheering on our teams, Go Bulls!”

Matthew concurs.

“It was definitely nice to get to see my dad every other week and to be able to go to dinner together,” he said. “Every poor college kid loves going to dinner, but to be able to catch up with my dad always made the week that muchbetter.”

There were added benefits.

“It sounds a little silly, but it was a huge convenience to have my dad come back and forth between home and school,” Kathryn said. “If I ever needed anything from home I would just ask him to bring it the next time he came for class and it would save me the long drive. It also didn’t hurt that my mom would often send goodies for me and my brother.”

When wife and mother, Barbara Turner, calls out the USF rallying cry, she also has three particular “Bulls” in mind.

“I am extremely proud of my son, my daughter and my husband – each for their individual accomplishments. It is hard enough to complete higher education with good grades, but each of my loved ones has also balanced working and volunteering throughout their time at USF. I couldn't be more excited for what the future holds for each of them as they go forward. Go Bulls!”

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563