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When Kay Parten Wylie started classes at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in September of 1955, she had no idea that it would take 59 years to get her degree.

It’s a story in perseverance that ended Thursday when Director of Public Relations Emeritus Mike Chason called the names of over 300 students participating in the ABAC spring commencement ceremony and the name of one who was not able to be present, Kay Parten Wylie.

“I had such a glorious time going to ABAC,” Wylie, now 76 years old, said. “It’s a really special place.”

Wylie graduated from high school in Sylvester in the spring of 1955. She packed up her belongings and moved to ABAC to live in Creswell Hall for the fall quarter. She didn’t know that she was only a year away from marrying her first husband.

“At the end of the first year, I married a young man I had met at ABAC,” Wylie said. “He had picked up some courses at ABAC but he was going to the University of Georgia. So we got married and moved to Athens.”

Wylie later completed her bachelor of arts degree in English from Valdosta State. She came ever so close to finishing her graduate degree from the same institution but fate intervened.

“I chose to take 15 extra hours instead of writing a thesis,” Wylie said. “I only had one and one-half pages to finish typing when my mother got very sick.”

Wylie did get that master’s degree at a later time in her life from Georgia Southwestern. But she never got her associate degree from ABAC until she called the ABAC Registrar’s Office to ask about transferring coursework from Valdosta State to finish out her ABAC requirements.

“They were very helpful,” Wylie said. “It was really easy. I just started thinking about it and realized how much I wanted a degree from ABAC.”

Wylie has tremendous ties to ABAC since her mother, Hazel Bickerstaff, was a nurse at the college during the 60s and her brother, Ted, was enrolled in the forestry program. Her son, Joe, also took classes.

“Ted really admired Dean (Vernon) Yow,” Wylie said. “So did Mother. In fact, Dean Yow appointed her Acting Dean of Women at ABAC one summer.”

During her working career, Wylie taught English at Tift County High School and Worth County High School.

“I left Tifton because the building in Sylvester was one story and air-conditioned,” Wylie said. “Plus Sylvester was my hometown.”

Wylie did not participate in Thursday’s commencement ceremony because her physical condition limits her mobility. But she is still very familiar with the ABAC campus since she lives only three blocks away.

“I ride out there almost every day,” Wylie said. “It’s such a beautiful campus.”

Made even more beautiful by the fact that Wylie now has a diploma from the college she fell in love with 59 years ago.
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