President to Present Diploma to Daughter at WC Commencement

May 11, 2015
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Erin Reynolds Is First Sitting President’s Child to Graduate from WC in 75-Plus Years

The start of Jim Reynolds’ presidency and that of his daughter, Erin’s, college career at Wilmington College converged in late summer of 2011.

What might have produced the potential for a collision course in other families resulted in an academically stellar experience for Erin and a fulfilling four years for Jim and Sue Reynolds witnessing their daughter excel and grow as a member of the Class of 2015.

The result is Wilmington College history. Erin will be the first child of a sitting president to graduate from WC since Walter Collins Jr. in 1939. Also during the tenure of10th President Walter Collins Sr., from 1932 to 1940, his elder son, Paul, graduated in 1937 and daughter, Mary Louise (Ertel), graduated a year after he left office in 1941.

Erin’s is the first class that the president will have experienced from welcoming them to campus as newly minted freshmen on that hot August day in 2011 to congratulating them with diplomas in hand Saturday (May 9) at Wilmington College’s 139th Commencement.

Erin, whose family has been in Wilmington since her father was appointed vice president for academic affairs in 2007, initially considered attending a college in Illinois but, while a high school senior, she was resolved to enroll at WC.

“I met a lot of people in Wilmington, put down some roots, so I decided I’d really like to stay here and go to school,” she said, adding, however, that the prospect of her father as president presented a unique situation to one not seeking to be in the campus spotlight.

“I was happy for him when he became president, but I was unsure how that was going to be for me,” she said. “Some faculty knew me, but student-wise, I wanted to make my own impression first.”

Jim said Erin literally grew up on college campuses, as, prior to coming to WC, he was a faculty member and administrator at both Midland Lutheran College in Nebraska and Drake University in Iowa.

“I remember as a kid being on college campuses; Drake had a Bring Your Kids to Work Day,” she said. “I felt comfortable in that atmosphere. At Drake, having such a positive experience, college was always something I was looking forward to, plus my parents instilled in us the value of education from a young age.

“But I never expected it would be my dad as president giving me my diploma!”

Four years ago, Erin entered WC uncertain of her academic major even though she possessed an almost innate interest in psychology, which is a prevalent profession among her extended family, as a number of relatives are clinical psychologists.

“My sister’s in psychology. We’re similar and have similar minds,” she said about Amanda, who is five years older than she and is a therapist/manager in California. “I didn’t gravitate to psychology sooner because I kept thinking about the Crane brothers from (the classic television show) Frazier both being psychologists — the Crane brothers, the Reynolds sisters!”

But once she took the Introduction to Psychology course, “I realized that’s where I needed to go,” she added.

Erin spoke of greatly valuing the opportunity to conduct hands-on, qualitative research early on with former faculty member Dr. Caroline Stanley and how psychology professors Dr. Victoria DeSensi and Dr. Mary Rose Zink, along with Dr. Corey Cockerill, associate professor of communication arts, and retired sociology professor Dr. Mary Ellen Batiuk became mentors of hers.

“It’s evident in the way my professors teach they have a real passion for teaching,” she said. “I had professors that can communicate their passion for their discipline.”

Erin was named to the Dean’s List throughout college and will graduate magna cum laude. She earned recognition as the top student attaining a Bachelor of Science in psychology at the Student Honors Convocation last month. She also is a member of Green Key Honor Society and was selected for Who’s Who Among American College and University Students.

“We’re really proud of her accomplishments,” Jim said. “Erin is tenacious and she found a real passion for research. I don’t know of any other student on this campus that works this hard — I know that sounds like a father speaking, but it’s well deserved.”

Erin will attend the University of Indianapolis’ graduate program in clinical psychology this fall, with the goal of qualifying for its doctoral program — that’s her seven-year plan.

Literally hours away from Commencement, Erin thinks it might feel a bit “surreal” when her father presents her diploma, but she is looking forward to that unique father-daughter moment.

“When I think about Saturday, it will be a really special experience,” she said. “Most parents don’t get to see their children grow on a daily basis while in college, but, by going to Wilmington College (and commuting from home), mine were able to.

“Wilmington has become a special place that connects my dad and me.”

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