UMU Senior, Grandmother Graduate 50 Years Apart

May 02, 2012

ALLIANCE, Ohio — The University of Mount Union’s 166th Commencement will hold special meaning for a graduating senior and her grandmother.

Sarah Burtnett, an early childhood education major of Alliance, will share a moment with her grandmother, Clara (Walker ’62) Blake, as she graduates on Saturday, May 5. Blake, who was also an elementary education major at Mount Union and is a retired Alliance teacher, is celebrating her 50th class reunion this year. As part of the reunion, Blake and other members of the Class of 1962 will participate in the Commencement ceremony.

From the time Blake attended Mount Union to the present, many things have changed. Blake said clothing has come a long way, as women only wore skirts and dresses when she attended Mount Union. She recalls walking to school in the wintertime with pants under her skirt and taking them off once she got into the classroom. During her school days, Blake recalled that freshman had to wear dink hats and upperclassmen would say, “Dink, frosh,” and freshmen would take off their hats and curtsy.

“When I was an upperclassman, I got paybacks and I would do it to freshmen all the time,” Blake said. “It was a kind of a welcome and let them know they were part of us.”

Campus buildings have also seen big changes over the years.

“The new buildings are just phenomenal,” Blake said. “And there are so many more students than when I was here. I loved my time at Mount Union. I always have a very soft spot for anything going on with Mount Union and I’m very proud of the football team.”

Although Blake encouraged Burtnett to go to school wherever she wanted, the choice was an easy one for Burtnett.

“When I came here I felt like I was at home,” Burtnett said. “I felt so comfortable, and everyone was so nice and so helpful.”

Burtnett said she takes pride in knowing that she has chosen the same future career as her grandmother.

“It’s special that I’m going into early childhood education and she did too,” she said. “It brings us closer.”

“I am excited for her because I loved teaching and I see it in her that she will be a good teacher and that she will grow from this experience,” Blake said.

Blake said that Burtnett enjoyed playing school from the time she was young.

“She always played school and made everybody listen to her read to them,” Blake said. “She had a long pointer stick and would point to things. I would bring home extra papers for her to use with her (pseudo) classroom.”

“I really admire my Mamaw (Blake) and look up to her with everything that she’s been through,” said Burtnett, who noted that she often sent college papers to her grandmother for revision. “I look to her for advice about teaching and life in general.”

Burtnett, who did her student teaching in the Marlington Local School District, is hoping to find a job in the area in order to stay close to family.

“I love coming up with different ways to help kids learn the new material,” she said. “I like to see their excitement and enjoyment of learning and I feel I can be a big contributor to that. You can still excite them and keep that fire and passion alive, which carries them all the way through their schooling and career.”

Blake and Burtnett are looking forward to celebrating Commencement together on Saturday.

“I’m just so excited — it makes everything so much more special,” Burtnett said. “She and I get to enjoy the day together and we’ll always remember that.”

Clara Blake and Sarah Burtnett

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