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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

Cumberland woman juggled family, work, and
studies to earn college degree from URI Providence campus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- May 22, 2002 -- Her children hung her schoolwork alongside theirs on the refrigerator. Her employer allowed her flexible time to attend class. Her husband supported her all the way.

"People ask me, ‘how come you’re always smiling’?" says Susan Gamache of Cumberland. "Why wouldn’t I smile? I’m about to turn 40, my husband and I are about to celebrate our 20th anniversary, I have great children and I’ve just realized my lifelong dream of graduating from college."

This month, Gamache earned a bachelor of general studies degree with a focus on human services from URI’s Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education after attending classes for 8 years, including summers. She earned her diploma while working often more than 40 hours a week as the recruiting coordinator for the CVS Pharmacy Store Support Center in Woonsocket, running a household, and helping others.

"Earning my degree really is a family accomplishment," she says. "I would have had to drop out if my husband, Ken, hadn’t been supportive and helped with the housework or if my kids hadn’t stay out of trouble."

Her daughter, Nicole, will be a junior this fall at the University of Vermont. Her son, Garet, will be a junior at Cumberland High School.

"I think I was an example to the kids…about the value of an education. We often overlapped in what we were learning. Because of school, I can understand the younger perspective and I can also relate to homework and exams," says the new graduate.

Nicole was born in 1982 when Gamache was 19. When Nicole turned 4, she was in the hospital battling spinal meningitis and fighting for her life. "She came out of it with no ill effects," says her mother. "I really felt blessed."

That experience awakened a need in Gamache to help others. Her long list of public service includes an 18-month fund-raising effort for a child with cancer and working with troubled youths through the "Guardian Angel" program. She serves on the vestry and on fund-raising projects for St. John’s Episcopal Church in Cumberland. Recognizing all her contributions to community service, Gamache was recognized with "The Spirit of St. John’s Award." She also coordinated, collected, and delivered 133 Thanksgiving baskets for low-income families and shuts-in in Central Falls, where she grew up.

Her road to college began with a nudge from a former employer. While working for the Northern Rhode Island Collaborative, her boss and mentor, Robert Guillette, after learning of her dream and continuously hearing her say that she would "someday" go back to school, handed her Carol Bonenfant’s business card. Bonenfant is an advisor at the URI Providence campus. Gamache enrolled in 1995. Guillette was an invited guest at URI’s commencement.

While at school, Gamache worked with a service dog organization called "Paws for Independence" as part of her senior project. "I’m going to continue my work with them beyond graduation," says the URI alumna who was inducted into the Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society last year. "In fact, they recently invited me to serve on their board of directors.
"It’s been an unbelievable experience," she says of her college days. "I’ve met people who I will know the rest of my life," says Gamache who compiled an impressive 3.96 (out of 4.0) average and was awarded a 2002 President’s Student Excellence Award.

Gamache will wait until her son begins college before returning to the books herself. "I’m definitely going back to school," she says. "It’s so incredibly enriching."

For Information: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

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