KOKOMO, Ind. — Retirement was just the beginning for Brenda Morgan.
Bored with sitting at home, Morgan, now 61, decided it was time to complete the bachelor’s degree she started shortly after high school. She enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo, determined to graduate.
“I had done everything for everyone else, and it was my turn,” she said. “I was going to go back, and I was going to finish, no matter what it took. I felt like it was my time. I always loved school, and I always wanted my degree.”
In December, she completed her degree in sociology — and she may not be done yet.
“I know I don’t feel old,” she said. “I want to stay active. It’s on my mind to go after my master’s degree.”
Morgan retired from Delphi Automotive in 2006, and became the babysitter for her grandchildren. She continued to care for the children while going to school, and is proud of the example she sets for them, and for her adult children.
“I keep telling my sons they need to go back to school,” she said. “If I can do it after retirement, they can do it, too. They saw me do this.”
She appreciates the support she received from IU Kokomo faculty and advisors, who encouraged her when she struggled at times.
“They helped me along, and pushed me to keep going and do my best,” she said. “They never let me quit.”
Her degree fulfills a long-cherished dream of finishing her education. She first went to IU Bloomington after graduating from Kokomo High School in 1973. She returned home to start her family, and began her 33-1/2 year career at Delphi Automotive. She raised two sons and a daughter, became a grandmother, and took classes at IU Kokomo from time to time.
In addition to potentially going to graduate school, Morgan is considering a career as a case manager for abused or neglected children, inspired by her volunteer service as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
“It’s just something that is on my heart,” she said. “I just love kids. I think everyone should have a good childhood. I feel like an angel for neglected kids.”
She heard about the CASA program shortly after enrolling at IU Kokomo, and felt called to serve. She completed the 30-hour training course, and was assigned to represent a young girl in the court system. She stayed with that child until her case was settled, then was assigned to the brothers she now represents.
As a CASA volunteer, Morgan gets to know the children she is assigned, spending time with them, and talking to family, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, and other adults who know them and their situations. She then can speak on the children’s behalf, informing judges and others of the child’s needs, and what will be the best permanent home for them.
“You feel like you are providing something important for these children, so they have the best outcome possible,” she said. You want to take them home with you and make sure they are OK. I am the only constant in their lives. I’ll stay with them until they are settled in their homes. They’re in good places now, and I hope to get them back together in the same home.”
She also completed an internship with the Family Service Association’s Minority Health Alliance, assisting with free health assessments in the community.
“I enjoyed talking to people, helping them, and getting a general idea of what their health is, and what they can do to be healthier,” she said.
Morgan is grateful for support from her husband, Dennis, her sisters, and her children, who encouraged and supported her along the way.
“They helped me with homework when I needed it, and helped me keep going,” she said. “Dennis has helped a lot. He shares in this degree.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.