Couple graduates from Pellissippi State with 4.0

Do smart people attract smart spouses?

Maybe so, because the “opposites attract” rule certainly doesn’t seem to apply in the case of one couple who has graduated from Pellissippi State Technical Community College.

Married students Brady and Ruth Ann Wassenaar both finished their degrees with a 4.0 grade point average. And they did it while parenting their two young sons and Brady worked a full-time job and Ruth Ann taught piano lessons.

The couple earned their associate’s degrees in Computer Science and Information Technology. They were enrolled in the Regents Online Degree Program through Pellissippi State.

“With both of us being firstborns, we tend to be perfectionists,” Brady said. “Also, in college, there’s more motivation to do well because it’s what you have chosen to do, whereas until you graduate from high school, you don’t have a choice.”

The importance of earning a degree really hit home, said Ruth Ann, when the couple moved here from Chicago several years ago so Brady could start a new job. When the position didn’t materialize, he began a job search and was surprised by how difficult it was to find work, even with years of experience in management and some in software development as well.

Brady eventually was hired, but the experience prompted both the Wassenaars to go back to school.

“We found out how hard it is to get a job when you don’t have a degree,” Ruth Ann said. “Brady couldn’t get his foot in the door, and I think it’s because he didn’t have a degree.”

Looking back, she says, they wish they had realized the importance of a college education sooner.

When the two did return to school, they enrolled in RODP and began what they describe as a grueling year-and-a-half-long adventure. Brady was able to transfer some college credits from previous schools. Ruth Ann didn’t have that advantage, but she was able to earn an additional 18 credit hours by taking several College Level Examination Program tests.

All the while, Brady worked full time as a software developer. Ruth Ann stayed home with the couple’s preschool-age boys and also taught piano lessons several afternoons a week. They took turns watching the kids on Saturday so the other parent could study.

“We basically had no life for those four semesters, other than going to church,” Ruth Ann said. “It was a challenge to make time for studying and also make time for our boys. It was necessary to cut out anything that didn’t help us meet either of those two goals, like TV and movies.”

“The Regents program allowed flexibility,” Brady said.

“For me it was a little strange to go to college, since it had been 10 years since I graduated from high school. It was reassuring to see other older people here [at Pellissippi State] taking classes. I appreciated all the administrative staff and the personnel in the Testing Center—and Tyra Barrett, who was our Regents advisor.”

“It was worth all the sacrifices and time,” Ruth Ann said. “I’m glad we did it.”

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