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  • PhD Later in Life: Superintendent Obtains Degree in Retirement

    Leah Christman

    Christman's last day as a superintendent

    Wednesday, August 02, 2017

    Leah Christman was at the top of her game. A former teacher who had worked her way through the ranks to become a superintendent, Christman was beginning to look forward to a retirement that would let her relax and take more motorcycle trips with her husband. There was just one little thing she wanted to do first: get a doctorate.

    For many professionals, going back to school for a doctorate is a daunting prospect, one that’s only desirable for its promise of career advancement. Christman, however, had already reached the pinnacle of her career. “Career-wise, I wasn’t looking for an advancement,” she explained. What she was looking for was the personal satisfaction of earning the highest degree she could get.

    “Throughout my career, I was constantly going back to school for different programs,” Christman said. “Every time I finished one I said I was done.” With a master’s degree and numerous certificates to her name, Christman had her fair share of education and experience. But there was one challenge she hadn’t tackled yet.

    “The only thing I hadn’t done was a doctorate,” she said.

    And so, just a few years before she was set to retire, Christman fashioned a new goal. 

    Christman enrolled in Drexel University’s EdD in Educational Leadership and Management. She completed the program within three years, earning herself the title of “doctor” just months before she decided to retire. 

    Christman’s pursuit of a doctorate for no reason other than her own sense of accomplishment may seem unbelievable to some, but it’s par for the course for this life-long learner. She and her siblings were the first generation in her family to attend college, and education was always important in her family.  

    “It was really important for my mom and dad that all of their children went to college,” Christman said. “I do regret that neither of them lived long enough to see me get the doctorate. I think that would have made them so proud.”

    Though Christman claimed to be finished with school for a while, she joked about heading to law school and mused about a new certificate she was interested in. Looks like this Dragon might not be finished after all. 


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