There are rocks and there are fossils �€and Teresa Miller still can’t help but chuckle when she recalls the time she was compared to the latter in the West Virginia University geology class she was attending with her daughter, Amanda.
�€?This kid came up to Amanda after class one day,�€? Teresa recalled, �€?and he said, �€~Who’s that old lady who’s always talking to you?’Amanda said, �€~Uh, that would be my mom.’You had to laugh.�€?
Look for that laughter �€and maybe even a tear or two of joy �€to continue for the Morgantown mother and daughter Sunday, May 14, when WVU stages its 137 th Commencement in the Coliseum. Both will be newly minted graduates.
Teresa, 53, a Morgantown councilwoman who represents the city’s 4th Ward, will receive a Regents Bachelor of Arts degree for her course work in the self-designed curriculum for older students that awards college credit in part on life experience.
Amanda, a 22-year-old artist at home both with the canvas and computer screen, is graduating with a fine arts degree.
That geology class was the only one that mother and daughter had together.
�€?That’s why it was pretty cool,�€? Amanda said on an afternoon last month while she and her mom were stealing a little down time on the first week back from spring break. �€?We’re both into such different pursuits, academically. That was the only time we overlapped. It was an experience.�€?
An experience for some students that, well, might have been weird at best. But not with this mother-daughter duo.
�€?Sitting in class with Mom wasn’t strange at all,�€? said Amanda, who has grown up watching her mother co-exist in Morgantown’s public eye as a council member. �€?That’s just Mom being Mom. She’s always been in the middle of everything, pursuing goals. Some other �€~old lady’might have felt socially awkward or out of place. But not her. That’s just how she is. It was a good lesson for me.�€?
And that, Teresa said as she smiled over at her daughter, was the whole idea.
�€?I’m really glad to hear her say that,�€? Teresa said. �€?Because that’s exactly what I wanted her to get out of all this. Don’t let anything intimidate you or make you think that it’s too late to try something new. Because it isn’t, and you can do it.�€?
Teresa’s academic odyssey began 36 years ago at Huntington’s Marshall University , where the Charleston native enrolled as a home economics major.
The campus was still reeling from the memories and twisted metal of a horrific plane crash that claimed the lives of the football team, a handful of faculty and administrators and several of the Cabell County city’s key citizens.
And the social sea was roiling a dynamic the likes of which had never been seen.
To say the country was divided over Vietnam is an understatement. The feminist movement, and all that implied, was gaining a big foothold, even in places like West Virginia . And debating the politics and particulars of an issue �€any issue �€was the standing order of the day.
�€?It was quite a time to be young and taking it all in,�€? Teresa said. �€?There was just so much going on.�€?
Including a wedding.
On May 6, 1972, she married her high school sweetheart, David Miller, and that same year the couple came to Morgantown and WVU so David could pursue a music degree from the College of Creative Arts .
Teresa worked as a secretary at the College of Business and Economics to help pay her husband’s way through school, and they moved back to Charleston where their son, Jeff, now 28, was born in 1977.
They weren’t away long. In 1983 the family moved back to Morgantown so David could pursue master’s in fine arts. Amanda was born in 1984. After several years as director of music at Morgantown’s Spruce Street United Methodist Church , David again felt the academic calling. He graduated from the College of Law in 1999 and is now a practicing attorney in Charleston .
Teresa, meanwhile, ran for council in 1995, and remains a member. Jeff, who also attended WVU , lives in Morgantown . Teresa and David are currently dividing their time between the University City and Capitol City . They wanted to raise their children in Morgantown , Teresa said.
�€?I like this part of West Virginia ,�€? Teresa said, �€?and I love Morgantown . This is a great place to raise kids. And you’ve got all the cultural advantages of WVU .�€?
Amanda, in fact, began taking art classes at WVU while still in high school. The professors she studied with then have remained her professors throughout here college career.
�€?I like that,�€? said Amanda, who is also the recipient of a PROMISE scholarship. �€?That makes for real continuity.�€?
�€?Continuity�€? is her mother’s watch-word, she said.
�€?I’m really proud of her,�€? Amanda added. �€?I’m impressed at the things she’s done, like going back to school and getting elected and re-elected to council. She just kind of went with life and played the cards as dealt.�€?
�€?It’s a real privilege to sit in a classroom at this stage in my life,�€? Teresa said. �€?I take a lot of classes in political science, women’s studies, Africana studies�€�it isn’t �€~history’when professors talk about civil rights and feminism. I was there.�€?
When it comes to being an engaged citizen, she wants her family to �€?be there,�€? too.
�€?I always told my kids, �€~Don’t let the opinions of others stop you from doing what you want to do,’�€? Teresa said.
There is a slight difference of opinion, however, regarding today’s 1:30 p.m. Commencement exercises. Will the mother and daughter don cap and gown to take part?
�€?I don’t know if I want to go through that,�€? Amanda said. �€?It’s too long.�€?
�€?But we’re still negotiating,�€? Teresa said.
Amanda laughed and rolled her eyes.
�€?Politicians,�€? she said.