Anne Margaret “Amie” Farrell grew up in Ireland, the eldest of nine children. Her mother was nearly blind from smallpox contracted as a toddler, but according to Amie, “she had an ‘overdose’ of common sense, the sharpest wit, and a rich vocabulary. She could do just about anything.” Amie’s father was a small farmer who came to the U.S. briefly during the Depression but returned to Ireland and raised his family. At the age of 17, Amie boarded the ship Ivernia and sailed to America in search of better opportunities. “College was not attainable for the majority back then in Ireland. One had to either be a genius or have connections,” she recalls. But even in America, the education she craved eluded her.
It would be almost 50 years before Amie held the diploma she could only dream about in her homeland. Amie’s educational odyssey began at Onondaga Community College and Maria Regina College and culminated last May in a B.A. in Liberal Studies from SU through UC. She had accumulated about 45 college credits before taking a job at SU’s Slutzker Center for International Services. “This enabled me to get remitted tuition, and I couldn’t waste such a gift,” she said. “I reasoned that I’d be the same age no matter what I did,” so she enrolled at UC at the age of 59. Career advancement and financial security were not motivators for Amie.
“My goal in earning a degree was personal achievement,” she insists. “I had always wanted a degree, and I wasn’t going to be the only member of my own family without one. All six of my children and their father have college degrees.” It was often difficult—and sometimes funny— for a woman with grown children to resume the role of a student, but she persisted. “I’d imagine my children seeing me in goggles in a forensics class lab, or covered in clay from a ceramics class,” she says. “I pulled all-nighters. I got Bell’s palsy and had double vision, so I did a term paper with one eye covered. I walked to class with a bad knee and ulcerated toe, being belted in the face by snow and sleet. I went through a bad divorce and the death of my mother in Ireland. But I wasn’t going to give in. I’m hooked on learning—it’s my drug.” The support system she found at UC made it possible. “I was blessed with wonderful, warm, kind, supportive, and understanding people at UC,” she recalls. “I’ll always be indebted to them. I appreciate the opportunity that SU allowed me and I will always have a special place in my heart for those who helped me. I can’t believe I have an alma mater now!” Her parents were there in spirit when she walked the stage for her diploma. Amie inscribed her graduation cap with eight heartfelt words with an Irish flourish: “In Memory of Ma and Da. Thanks SU.”