MetroWest Daily News
By Brad Avery
HUDSON - For many parents, watching their child walk at their college graduation is a point of pride and overwhelming emotion. Not many kids get to return the favor.
But Marcelle Durrenberger does.
That's because she and her mother Jocelyne are both graduating this year, from the same school on the same day. The Durrenbergers, of Hudson, both attended the University of Massachusetts Lowell - Marcelle, 23, for her bachelor's and Jocelyne, 55, for her Ph.D. With finals and capstones complete, they won't just be receiving their degrees Saturday, they'll also be giving the student commencement speeches.
"When we asked if we were chosen because of the mother-daughter thing they said no, it was based on merit," Marcelle said. "But it was a perk that we were both related."
Due to the size of the student body, UMass Lowell breaks its graduations up into two ceremonies, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with grads grouped by major. Because Marcelle's degree is in mechanical engineering and Jocelyne's is in nursing, that means they'll be going to both - much to the chagrin of Marcelle's dad and two brothers. But the dual ceremonies gave each of them the opportunity to submit speeches for the chance to deliver them at graduation. According to Marcelle, she probably wasn't going to even enter a speech until she learned her mom had written one.
Marcelle, a Hudson High School grad, said she chose to get her engineering degree from UMass Lowell because it was close to home, a quality school and affordable. It had nothing to do with the fact that both her parents hold engineering degrees from the school when they were undergrads in the 1980s, although growing up in that environment may have left a lasting impression.
"My parents are both former engineers, so I had a very technical mindset growing up," Marcelle said. "I was taught always to ask 'why' something happens and to work to solve problems."
As she weighs job offers from several companies, Marcelle hopes to begin working in footwear design, a decision driven by her student work with Vibram, which makes five-toed shoes that look like gloves for feet.
Jocelyne, having already entered and left the engineering field, is a nurse practitioner and also the president of Cat Rescue of Marlborough and Hudson. Seeking to combine her two passions, she returned to her alma mater to study the effect of pet ownership of the quality of life in children. In completing the study she found that having a close bond with an animal at a young age leads to a higher quality of life later on.
"I thought it would be a real hoot to get my degree from the same spot," she said. "I like being able to do interdisciplinary work, this is how I'm happy."
Jocelyne only visited the campus once a month for school and took the rest of her seminars online. For Marcelle, who lived on campus, having her mom visit monthly gave them the opportunity to get lunch, catch up and bond. They even took a school trip to India together.
Commencement is on May 14. For Jocelyne, graduation means taking her research and applying it to her work as a nurse practitioner, working with new families to create healthier home environments with pets.
For Marcelle, the future looks bright for the young engineer.