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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Husband and wife to graduate from URI
Couple sold home to finance education

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- May 7, 2001 -- Edith and John McLaughlin can tell you the cost of higher education: a 12-room house in West Warwick and a 1987 Nissan Sentra. That’s what the couple sold to finance their education.

"We reassessed what we wanted to do," says Edith. "We disposed of all the excess and downsized. Besides, we had more than we needed."

Edith will graduate with a Bachelor’s of General Studies Degree from URI’s Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education this month. John, who earned a BGS from URI in 1998, will also be graduating, this time earning a URI Master’s of Business Administration degree.

"We could never have done it so quickly if the children weren’t already grown and out of the house," says 48-year-old John. The couple has three children, Leslie 31, John 28, and Heather 26 and three grandchildren. The couple now lives in Providence, just up the street from the URI Providence Campus in a one-bedroom apartment.

"When I first walked into the College in 1966, I held back a little," says John with a smile. "Everyone was so helpful and cheerful. It’s part of the environment but at first I thought they were salesmen."

Both Edith and John went on to become peer counselors for the Student Services Office, often helping other adult students juggle family, schoolwork, and employment.

"It’s important to help new students," says Edith. "They often come here with low self-esteem because they haven’t been successful in their earlier schooling. We try to provide them an understanding ear along with encouragement, and try to share successful strategies we have used."

The couple, married 29 years, met when Edith chaperoned her younger sister’s party and John attended.

Raised in South Providence, Edith attended Central High School and pursued the business program: the college prep program was out of the question due to the cost of college. While raising the children, Edith, wearing steel toe boots, worked on plastic conversion machines for 10 years at Union Paper. She later worked in the research and development section of Astro-Med. "I often thought about college. It was something that was always in the back of my mind," the 50 year-old recalls.

John grew up in the Smith Hill area of Providence and attended LaSalle Academy. After he graduated he worked 13 years for Almacs supermarkets, the last 10 years on the third shift. In 1983, he went to work for the city of Providence as a firefighter and earned an associate’s degree in fire science at Providence College. In his 14th year on the job, he suffered a back injury that forced him to take early retirement. "I had to make an abrupt transition," he says. Along with three partners, John opened a small business selling computers for homeowners and small business networks. However, he soon realized that real success was to be found in management, not sales.

That’s when the couple decided to set their sights on education. Edith who focused her studies on health services has applied to URI’s Graduate School for entry into its Labor Research Program. John, who has worked this year in the financial aid office at the ASF-CCE, has been asked by the College to remain on staff to do both academic advising and teach a computer science course this summer.

The couple has earned a high approval rating at the College. "I was John’s academic advisor and he was and is exactly the kind of student who makes my job so easy," says Carol Bonenfant. "And then along comes Edie and she has been so great to advise and call a friend. I know that she has personally worked with students in her classes when they have been unable to keep up or needed a little extra help. You don’t always have the opportunity to work with an outstanding student but an outstanding couple…WOW!"

"I’d do it again," says Edith. "It’s been worth every moment. It is a trade off. You need to give up something to get something. This is something I’ve always wanted to do," says Edith. Nodding toward her husband she adds: "Besides, it’s more fun doing it with him."
Her husband smiles and nods. "Definitely," he says.

For Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116

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