By Carmen M. Woodson-Wray, Gary Crusader
Doris Newby-Armstrong said after graduating from Roosevelt High School many years ago she had no intentions of going to college, but when the opportunities came she took them. Now at 75 years old this recent graduate says she understands why people say, “it’s never too late.”
Her husband the late John Butler Armstrong was a member of the United States Air Force and served in Korea. After he served his tour, the two of them returned to the Gary area to live. John Armstrong enrolled in college at Purdue first and later she did also. “It was on my mind to go so I enrolled and took basic classes. I only enrolled for one year though,” she said.
Because of his commitment to the military, they moved quite frequently all over the country. The moves were never close to one another. They moved from Detroit to Glendale, Arizona, to Chicago before eventually settling down in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The two of them made it their home for the last 45 years.
Newby-Armstrong worked in Milwaukee and attended Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). She decided on MATC because her friend owned a childcare center in the area. The friend told her if she obtained a certificate in childcare, she could have the job of running one of the two centers. “It took me a year, but I went back to school and got my certificate so that I could get that job,” she said.
While working as director of the Child Care Center her mother, who lived back in Gary became ill and required 24-hour care. Newby-Armstrong said it was her decision to bring her to Milwaukee so that she could care for her. Her mother lived with her for six years before she passed in 1994. Even after her passing, she continued to work at the Child Care Center for another four years.
Two years later the Milwaukee Marion University partnered with her church Holy Redeemer Institutional COGIC. The members had the opportunity to enroll in courses on campus that could lead towards an undergraduate degree, masters or Ph.D. Newby-Armstrong said her goal was to obtain a Bachelors. She said, “I had a high school diploma and one year of Purdue, along with credits from the Child Care Center, which added up to be an Associate’s Degree worth of credits.”
For two years, she only took basic classes during the school year and a few during the Summer months because of the goal she set for herself to complete the program – two years. It took 120 credits to graduate from Marion with a bachelor’s degree, but when they added up hers it came to 117. She said, “I needed one more class so I went back for a photography course to get those last three credits.”
Newby-Armstrong said that was the hardest class that she had ever taken. “I’m used to pointing and shooting cameras, but I had to buy a digital camera and the lens. It was a lot of work.”
Finally, on December 16, 2016 Newby-Armstrong graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree. Currently she works at Khols Department Store, where she has been for 17 years. She also gets offers to photograph weddings, all types of parties and bridal showers because of the experience she obtained from that one photography class.
Newby-Armstrong had an assignment in her Communications class to donate blankets to homeless shelters throughout the area. From that project, they donated 200 blankets to seven various shelters in the Milwaukee area. She said the Lord put it on her heart to continue donating blankets so on her own she has continued to donate 100 blankets a year to various shelters in her area.
As far as the new college credentials she earned, she says she is still on cloud 9. “So many wonderful things have been happening to me since I got my degree. I have been on Fox TV News, interviewed by several newspapers throughout Milwaukee and I can be found on YouTube and the Internet.
A dear friend she graduated with from Roosevelt High School in Gary said she was so proud of her. She said, “She has always been a nice, good, thoughtful and generous person. At her age, I am truly excited for her. She is a person who always accomplishes what- ever she has plans to do. Her mission was to graduate from college and she did and with honors.”
There are no plans for her to earn a master’s degree although many have suggested to her that she should go back.