McNeese graduation family affair for mother and daughter

By By Nichole Osinski / American Press

Gwendelen Dugas and daughter Whitney Duhon have shared a close bond. And that bond deepened Saturday as the mother-daughter

duo graduated together from McNeese State University — Dugas with a sociology degree and Duhon with a psychology degree.

For Dugas, this was a goal she has spent three decades trying to achieve.

“It feels great; it has been a long, hard process. But now, you know, it’s done and feels wonderful,” Dugas said. “My daughter

is an inspiration for me because she’s a strong girl, and she’s motivated. It’s exciting, graduating together.”

Dugas’ journey began in 1982 when she

graduated high school and enrolled at Northwestern State University. She

stopped her

courses after two years because bills needed to be paid and she

decided it would be best to work full time. Over the years,

she occasionally took classes, married and had three children.

In 2008, her son Donovan died. She said she realized life was short and that if she wanted to get a degree, this would be

the time to do so. Her mother-in-law at the time affirmed her decision by letting her know how important it was to have an

education and to not give up.

“She said, ‘Donovan would be so proud of you if you went back to school,’ ” Dugas said. “That’s when I said, ‘I’m going to

do it now.’ I needed something to grab on to, and I just stuck with it and completed my degree.”

Duhon, 21, who graduated in 3 1/2

years, said she and her mother didn’t plan to graduate at the same time.

When she transferred

to McNeese from Northwestern State University in her sophomore

year, her mother had already been taking classes at McNeese.

Though they didn’t take any courses together, mother and daughter confided in each other when university life became frustrating

and helped each other whether it was parking issues or math classes.

“As McNeese approaches its 75th anniversary we see more and more multigenerational McNeese families,” said Alumni Affairs

Director Joyce Patterson. “They share common experiences and the pride of accomplishment, which strengthens their ties to

one another and to McNeese.”

The women received their diplomas

alongside more than 700 other students at the fall commencement

ceremony. Duhon said she

is proud of her mother, and Dugas is equally proud of her daughter

for not only graduating early but for graduating with honors.

“It’s a bonus, graduating with my mom,” Duhon said. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes. I know it’s kind of a cliche, but

never say never. If you’re determined, you’ll do it.”

Duhon has always wanted to counsel people and plans to earn a master’s in clinical psychology at the University of Houston.

Her grandmother has a doctorate in psychology — which was part of the reason for her interest in becoming a therapist.

Dugas, who works at the Calcasieu

Parish Sheriff’s Office, hopes that in the future she can use her degree

to help the community.

For now, though, she is simply happy that she accomplished what

she set out to do.