Mother and son both celebrate graduations on Commencement

May 17, 2024

This year’s Commencement at Saint Michael’s was especially significant for one Vermont family celebrating the milestones of two family members.  

Despite a 37-year age difference, both Rose-Anne McCarthy, 63, of Brattleboro and her son, Brian, 26, celebrated their individual graduations from the College with the Class of 2024. Rose-Anne earned her Health Equity Graduate Certificate from Saint Michael’s remote program, which she began in the fall 2022 semester. Brian, of Essex Junction, walked across the stage at commencement to receive his diploma for a Master’s in Clinical-Counseling Psychology. He began the program a year before his mom, in fall 2021.

Brain and Rose-Anne McCarthy at Saint Michael’s 117th Commencement (Photo by Cat Cutillo/Saint Michael’s College)

The weekend was filled with celebrations for the McCarthys. In addition to two members of their family graduating, the College’s 117th commencement, coincidentally, fell on Mother’s Day. Rose-Anne had also celebrated her 63rd birthday the day before. 

“It’s everything that being a mother is about. I couldn’t have a better gift,” Rose-Anne said. 

Brian graduated with an undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in spring 2020, which was during the peak of COVID-19. He decided it would be safest to stay in his home state of Vermont for graduate school. Rose-Anne researched the Clinical-Counseling Psychology graduate program at Saint Michael’s and thought it was the perfect fit for him. 

“It was small, and he had a relationship with the instructors,” Rose-Anne said. “He felt that a small school would be more conducive to becoming a psychologist.” 

The mother-son duo inspired each other. A year into Brian’s program, Rose-Anne started researching her own future on the Saint Michael’s website. Her current position at Valley Health Connections in Springfield, VT, as a certified application counselor allowed her to help people enroll in insurance. The two-time breast cancer survivor had also worked as an advocate and wanted to find something to feed her insatiable love for learning. 

“No matter how old you are, you just need to keep evolving and learning,” she said. “I thought that the Health Equity matched everything I’ve done as far as work experience and volunteering. It just fit perfectly.”  

The family also had a legacy at Saint Michael’s. Rose-Anne’s father-in-law graduated from the College in 1948 and regularly reminisced about his love for Saint Michael’s. 

During the two years Brian and Rose-Anne overlapped at Saint Michael’s, they acted as support systems for each other. 

“It really worked out great,” Rose-Ann said. “He would read my work and I’d read his work. He’d make comments. We’re pretty honest with each other.”  

Brian agreed that they benefitted from one another. 

“I think it actually helped motivate me doing my own work as well just knowing that my mom— in her later age— is going out and still working hard at trying to be a better person and get more education. So that inspired me as well,” Brian said. 

Rose-Anne said that coming up to speed on the latest technology was part of the learning process for her. She came away with a new confidence that she can “figure it out.” She reflected on how the research process had dramatically evolved since her own college years when research required hours in the library scanning old newspaper articles on microfiche. 

Brian said that watching his mom push through her own barriers was inspiring. 

“I think it’s just never too late to improve and that learning happens at all stages of life,” Brian said. 

Brian reflected that it was especially meaningful they the commencement weekend would be filled with his mother’s birthday, Mother’s Day, and their combined graduation celebrations. 

“I think it’s really just the bow on the gift and the icing on the cake,” Brian said. “You just get this feeling of accomplishment and pride and relief that we did it and we made it.” 

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