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Like Mother, Like son: A Journey

By Nathaniel Callaway
On August 8, 2017

Recent graduate Victoria Neyland and her son Noah Neyland provided support during their journeys as students.

Photo Courtesy of Victoria  Neyland
 

College can be an exciting time. Students and faculty can do everything from finding their way down a chosen career path to discovering the very thing that they want to do in life. For Victoria Neyland, a general studies major who graduated on May 13, her first college experience involved surgery, dancing and marriage. In 1976, Neyland began pursuing an education at the university as a dance major. She describes a few of the differences between school then and now.

“When I started school in 1976, registration at Southeastern was so different than it is today,” said Neyland. “We used to stand in long lines to register classes, and if you were at the end of the line, you may have not gotten the classes you needed. I love that registration is now just a click of a button on my computer.”

Neyland claims the tools and luxuries students have available to them have improved.

“Since I’ve returned, I have also taken more than half of my classes online, which I think is great because I love taking my test in my pajamas in my living room,” said Neyland.  “The school is so much larger than it used to be back in the past, and there are so many more students attending.  The computers at Sims Library are a wonderful addition considering no one owned a computer in the ‘70s and the only phones available were in our dorm rooms attached to the wall.”

However, the campus isn’t the only thing that’s changed since the last time she was attending. During her first year at the university, she met her husband-to-be, Robert Neyland, on campus.

“I was a dance major at SLU where I met my husband, Robert Neyland who was a theatre major,” said Neyland. “We were rehearsing for the musical ‘Cabaret’ in the fall of 1976. We started dating in March of 1978. Our first date was at the old Student Union which is now the Student Bookstore. My husband asked me if I wanted anything. Then, he shocked me by asking for the money to pay for it. After all, we were students at the time. We still laugh about that first date.”

The two dated for about two years until they finally got married on Saturday, Aug. 26, 1978, and then they started their fall semester together. They lived together in the married student apartments that at the time were located where the Pennington Student Activity Center is today. 

Neyland noticed problems with her left eye during rehearsal for a 1980 spring dance recital. After discovering that she was pregnant in the fall of 1980 and undergoing eye surgery, Neyland withdrew from classes. 

 “I danced in ‘Pippin’ while four months pregnant,” said Neyland. “I never returned to school after my first son was born in January 1981. I was torn between school, motherhood and the possibility of another retinal detachment that could cause permanent blindness.”

Neyland always wanted to finish school, but her growing family pushed that dream further and further back.

Neyland said, “Looking back on it, I really put all my energy into raising my son, but my dream was always to finish school. I had my daughter six years later.”

Everything from first meeting her husband to telling him about their third child happened on campus.

During a celebration of their 18th wedding anniversary, Neyland had a surprise in store for her husband.

Neyland explained, “I took a pregnancy test, and we drove to SLU to visit. As we were sitting on a bench under the Friendship Circle tree, I gave my husband two cards. One was about our anniversary, and the other was about the surprise baby which was a total surprise to him. We sat there watching the students walking through campus, and we just had to laugh at ourselves. We were starting all over again since we had a 10-year-old and a 16-year-old at the time.” 

Neyland has returned to school to finish her degree in general studies along with Noah, who is 20 years old and a computer science major. Neyland felt that the best way to encourage him to go to college was to finish it herself and has gone to her classes with him. 

“When Noah was trying to decide what path to take after high school, I encouraged him to attend college,” said Neyland. “As I was helping him apply to schools, I decided I wanted to return to Southeastern to encourage my son, Noah, to attend college and not to give up when things got hard.  

After beginning his first semester at the university this past spring, the pair bonded through their new experiences. “He has been a good sport about attending school with his mom,” said Neyland. “We ride together on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

As time goes on, Neyland hopes that her story might encourage others to see their education as a gift to always pursue, and that no matter how hard it might get, they should never give up on their dreams.

“When I was in school the first go around, I didn’t take school as seriously,” said Neyland. “I loved being active in the theatre department and the dance department, but I didn’t put school first.  That has totally changed for me this time. I take my classes very seriously, and I love learning more than ever before.  

Prior to graduation, Neyland reflected on how her experiences at the university has impacted herself and others. 

Neyland said, “I hope my efforts will inspire my son and others to work hard to achieve their goals and to never give up, no matter what the circumstances.”

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