Many graduates and their families might feel commencement is a whirlwind of travel and activity, but for one Hays woman that was especially true this month — eight days, four grandchildren, three ceremonies, two states, one proud grandmother.
Luckily for Carolyn McCollum-Scantlin and her family, they didn’t have to deal with two of those ceremonies at the same time.
Granddaughters Sarah Malott, Hays, and Madison Pittenger, Salina, both graduated with degrees in biological sciences Friday night from Fort Hays State University, while Malott’s older sister, Carolyn Schriner, received a social work degree Saturday morning from Kansas State University.
“I was worried we were going to get two Saturday morning graduations and I hadn’t figured out what we were going to do,” said Dawn Malott, Sarah’s mother.
“I kept telling her ‘Don’t worry about it and it will all work out.’ And it did,” McCollum-Scantlin said.
“We didn’t realize it for a long time,” McCollum-Scantlin said of the two women graduating at the same time.
Schriner took her studies at her own pace, and Sarah changed majors, which extended her studies a year, McCollum-Scantlin said.
“This fall it crossed our minds a lot,” she said.
“Neither one wants to miss the other’s graduation,” she said, adding the sisters always have been close.
But it did work out, although it did mean the family left for Manhattan directly after FHSU’s ceremonies Friday to make the 8:30 a.m. KSU commencement.
Grandma has been around for much more than the two young women’s ceremonies, however. Madison lived with her grandmother while attending FHSU.
“We’ve enjoyed it. It’s fun to get the girls together and listen to them. I think it keeps you young,” McCollum-Scantlin said.
"Grandma's pretty cool," Madison said.
Madison is not the first grandchild she’s hosted during their education. Four of six of her grandchildren — and even some of their parents — are FHSU grads.
“Grandma’s been kind of a boarding house,” said Todd Pittenger, Madison’s father.
Sarah lived at home while attending FHSU. Living with family, along with scholarships and jobs, mean both women will graduate debt-free.
“It’s handy living in a town with such a good school. We’re really proud of our school. We’re even proud of the kids that aren’t graduating from Fort Hays,” McCollum-Scantlin said with a laugh.
Pittenger’s twin brother, Dalton, graduated last weekend from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg with a degree in theater education, starting off the whirlwind of ceremonies. He was the recipient of the school’s Charno Award, given each year to the top male and female graduates, and spoke at commencement.
Mom Shana Pittinger said she knew she had a choice during his speech, to cry or smile.
“Apparently I was smiling so big, with such pride in my eyes that a woman turned around and she looked at me and said ‘That must be your son,’ ” she said.
Dalton will be teaching in Smithfield, Mo., north of Kansas City next fall, and Schriner has already started an internship at Sunflower Services in Overland Park.
Sarah and Madison will be hitting the books again next fall.
Sarah, whose bachelor’s degree was in natural resources, will be taking online courses through Colby Community College to become a veterinary technician. She’s been working at Hays Veterinary Clinic for five years and plans to stay there awhile longer, but she’d eventually like to work in a zoo or wildlife center.
Madison, who received a bachelor’s degree in zoology, will pursue a graduate degree from FHSU. She’ll start an internship at Quivera National Wildlife Refuge, working on a bird survey and starting work on her thesis project studying beetles and native versus non-native plant communities.