May 07, 2009

Grace Peterson to receive degree posthumously

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Grace E. Peterson was a non-traditional student with a love for Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a passion for “making every day count.”

She attended college in the 1970s, and then went on to work as a telecommunicator for the Illinois State Police in District 19, headquartered in Carmi -- a job she held for 25 years. Her family members say state troopers described Peterson as one who always “watched their backs.”

Peterson came to SIUC and entered the Center for the Study of Crime, Delinquency and Corrections to pursue a degree in the administration of justice with a minor in psychology. Not content merely to earn one degree, she also began working on a second degree in social work.

Sadly, Peterson died on March 29, just short of her 58th birthday and after a battle with cancer. She had completed her degree requirements and expected to graduate this weekend.

The College of Liberal Arts is awarding Peterson a posthumous degree, to be accepted by her sister, Sandra Peterson-Fox. Anita Hutton, assistant to the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, will read a statement during the commencement ceremony. She noted that going to college was “a dream come true” for Peterson. That dream included hard work. Hutton said Peterson balanced work and education for many years.

“It is always a tragedy when we lose a student,” Alan Vaux, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said. “I hope receiving Grace’s degree will give some small comfort to her family.”

Peterson moved to Carbondale from Enfield, and was formerly from Lombard. Her family described her in her obituary as a successful produce farmer who loved animals and sold organic eggs.

The College of Liberal Arts has two commencement ceremonies this weekend. The ceremony for those majoring in administration of justice, as Peterson did, is at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 10, at the SIU Arena.