Sunday morning was like any other for Gunnison’s Christine Mott. She rose and turned attention to a cross-stitch project before thumbing through seed catalogs in search of the best prices to start plants in her garden.
Except for one thing. She couldn’t help but feel sadness about the coming fall. For the past four years, 67-year-old Mott has entered a classroom at Western State Colorado University each August filled with students decades younger than her while studying to earn a degree that took a back seat to more pressing matters earlier in her life.
On Saturday, Mott walked across the stage at Mountaineer Bowl with fellow Western students in culmination of their college careers. It was a long time coming for the double major in psychology and sociology, who graduated from Lee’s Summit High School in Missouri in 1969 and went straight to work in a factory, manufacturing telecommunications components, where she remained until 1986.
“I got laid off one day and divorced the next,” Mott quips.
Ultimately, she landed in Denver in 2004 before moving with her daughter to Leadville, where she earned an associate’s degree from Colorado Mountain College. However, Mott has raised her grandson — now 14 — since he was 6 years old alongside her husband George, whom she married in 1996 and followed to Gunnison when he too was attending Western.
Her decision to pursue higher education was to show her grandson the importance of learning. Still, Mott’s own struggles with bipolar disorder led her to the fields of psychology and sociology — with a goal of one day helping kids succeed who’ve come from a difficult home life.
“I did the drugs and alcohol to try to make the pain go away,” she says. “If I could help one child from going through what I went through, if I can be their voice, I will have done something.”
Mott volunteers for the Gunnison Country Food Pantry each Monday and Wednesday but admits that she’ll miss rubbing elbows with fellow undergrads.
“They ended up liking me!” she exclaims of those students. “They were not really peers because I don’t go out and party, but while in class I was accepted. I hadn’t seen so many kids in a classroom since high school.”
While Mott walked Saturday with graduating seniors, she still has a few credits to complete before officially receiving her diploma. Yet, she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of continuing her education.
“I’m thinking about going for my master’s if I can find the money,” she explains. “I told my grandson if I can do that, you can go for your doctorate.”
Above all, Mott’s success in the classroom — she expects to finish with a 3.5 grade-point average following this semester — emphasizes one important point that she hopes others take to heart.
“It’s never too late to learn,” she says.
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)