Degrees in the DNA?


Front row, from left: Jerry Owsley, Anthony Wallace (center), Angela Owsley Jackson. Back row, from left: Lena Middleton (Anthony and Linda’s daughter), Linda Wallace, DeAndrea Owsley. Not pictured: Lena’s husband, Eric Middleton, and Wayne Brown.

When it comes to family members enrolled in college, apparently, eight is not enough.

As Indiana officials work to encourage more Hoosier adults to earn a college degree, one local family is helping UIndy do its part in raising educational attainment in the state—which ranks 41st in the percentage of adults who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

It all started with Lena Middleton, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University’s School for Adult Learning in 2004. That inspired her mother, Linda Wallace, to enroll along with a niece, Angela Owsley Jackson, for mutual moral support. Both are in their third year of undergraduate work.

Linda’s husband, Anthony Wallace, and Lena’s husband, Eric Middleton, were the next to arrive. Then came Angela’s brother and sister-in-law, Jerry Owsley, and DeAndrea Owsley and her father, Wayne Brown, who is in the master’s program in applied sociology. If you’re counting, that’s eight family members so far. Then there’s their beautician friend, whom they’ve pulled in; she just finished her first class in the School for Adult Learning. And they’re working on Wayne’s wife.

The clan credits regular family study sessions and support from faculty for keeping them engaged and excited about finishing their degrees. The woman who started it all? Lena, a minister, has since completed a master’s in applied sociology at UIndy and is contemplating earning a doctoral degree in theological studies.

And now, Linda is coordinating with UIndy’s Laurie Daeger to reserve a 15-passenger bus so that she can bring all of six of her high-school age grandchildren for a campus visit, along with Jerry and DeAndrea Owsley’s two high-school-age kids, Angela’s daughter, and some children from their church.