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Mom, son graduate together from MCLA

By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Posted: 05/20/2012 12:05:59 AM EDT 

Sunday May 20, 2012
NORTH ADAMS

They never planned it this way.

Melissa Prime and her son, Dan Sumy, who both live in Cheshire, started college at different schools. They were originally on track to graduate two years apart. They took some of the same courses, but at different times.

But due to an unusual set of circumstances, mother and son accomplished a rare feat on Saturday when they graduated together from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"It's kind of interesting," said Sumy, 23, the oldest of the 46-year-old Prime's three children. "I'm graduating with everyone my own age ... and my mother."

Sumy's mother, Carol Kordana, found the ceremony surreal.

"Here I am looking at my daughter graduating, and her I am looking at my grandson graduating," Kordana said. "It's a very strange feeling."

It also appears to be very rare.

A spokesman for the Pew Research Institute in Washington, D.C., who didn't give his name, said it's doubtful that any organization compiles statistics on the number of mothers and sons who graduate from college together.

MCLA, which performed its 113th commencement exercise on Saturday, also doesn't track those numbers.

"It's very unique," said MCLA spokeswoman Bernadette Lupo.

Prime, 46, started taking courses at MCLA as a part-time non-traditional student in the fall of 2009, the same year that Sumy, 23, transferred in from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he spent his freshman year.

"He needed a smaller-type classroom," Prime said.

Sumy, who double majored in biology and chemistry, was originally supposed to graduate from MCLA in 2011. But he decided to stay an additional year after adding chemistry to his course load.

Prime, a business major, was on track to graduate from MCLA in 2013. But instead of waiting, she decided to accelerate the process by "loading up" on courses this year.

"Not intentionally to do this," said Prime, who works two jobs, but graduated magna cum laude. "It was because I'm getting tired. I just wanted to get it over. I went three years to Berkshire Community College before I started here in 2009."

It wasn't until January that Prime learned she would graduate with her son.

"It was kind of neat when I found out I was graduating this spring," she said.

Prime and Sumy said they knew many of the same classmates, but most of them didn't know they were mother and son. Their paths crossed in the classroom only once. Sumy, who also served as a teaching assistant, filled in for another teacher one day at one of his mother's biology labs.

"He didn't even tell me," Prime said. "I'm walking down the hall, and I heard him talking. I walk in the classroom, and he said, "I'm your teacher tonight."

"It was fun," Sumy said, smiling. "I was in a position of power."

"For once it wasn't me telling him what to do," Prime said, laughing. "Although I did want to pipe up a few times."

Sumy has received a scholarship to attend a graduate program in chemistry at the University of Vermont. Prime is hoping her degree can help her advance in the business world.

Mother and son. Different majors. Separate goals. Same result on Saturday.

"The stars aligned," Prime's sister, Jody Kordana, said.