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May 3, 2016
When Phyllis Ware crossed the commencement stage at Northwest Missouri State University this spring, it was the culmination of a journey that began decades ago and a demonstration of her resolve.
Ware endured a series of starts and stops as she pursued a college degree – including a car crash that left her wheel-chair bound – but never lost sight of her goal. At 56 years old, the Maryville resident graduated from Northwest with her bachelor’s degree in industrial psychology.
“I’m a pretty motivated person and I felt that it was a way for me to make a difference, even in my chair,” Ware said. “I have not let it interfere with what I wanted to do. It has shaped some things I wanted to do, but I haven’t allowed it to hinder the things I wanted to do.”
Ware began pursuing an accounting degree at Missouri Western State University in 1990, but changed her major the following year upon realizing the psychology field was a better fit for her.
She paused her pursuit, however, in 1994 after the passing of her mother and eventually turned her attention to raising her three children.
Then, in 2009, a car accident left Ware with a spinal cord injury that paralyzed her from the breast bone down and limited the use of her hands to 50 percent. She spent several months in a Columbia, Missouri, rehabilitation center, learning how to live and function as a person in a wheel chair.
“I’ve heard kids say, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that,’” Ware said. “I’m thinking, ‘Really? Let’s talk a little bit and I’ll motivate you.”
Ware refused to be deterred. In 2011, she enrolled at Northwest to renew her goal of earning a college degree.
“I am from Maryville, so it was just a good fit because of my disability and not being able to travel,” Ware said. “I’ve always heard good things about Northwest.”
With the help of Northwest’s TRIO and Support Services programs, Ware resumed her studies. She credits Jacque Loghry, an academic success coach and assistant director of Student Support Services, as an important mentor. Dr. Leslie Galbreath, the dean of academic and library services, also offered encouragement, and Allison Hoffmann, who had Ware in her managerial communication course, helped her become comfortable with speaking in public from a wheelchair.
Ware was a member of Northwest’s Sigma Alpha Pi chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, joining students who wanted to make a difference through leadership roles and attaining her certificate as a National Engaged Leader.
She also served as president of Northwest’s Association of Non-Traditional Students, and led the development of outreach programs, including a community resource fair.
“There’s a lot of students I have met through ANTS and through my studies who have really made a difference for me,” Ware said. “I was really concerned about being in a chair and not being accepted, but the Northwest family has rallied around me and made me feel very welcome and put my mind at ease.”
Along the way, Ware and her oldest daughter, Sheri Roush, drew inspiration from each other. Roush, also a non-traditional student and single mother, was a trimester away from completing her degree at Northwest when Ware’s car accident occurred. Roush stepped away from her schooling for a time to care for her mother and completed her bachelor’s degree at Northwest in dietetics with a food and nutrition emphasis in 2012.
Now, Ware’s daughter, Katie Quigley, is pursuing her degree at Northwest in elementary education. Ware’s son, Bill Quigley, serves in the Missouri Army National Guard.
Ware says her experience at Northwest changed her in ways that once seemed impossible.
“It has propelled me into a life of doing and overcoming and accomplishing things that I wanted to do,” she said. “The changes that I’ve seen at Northwest have really encouraged me to embrace change and to look forward to the next step in my life.”
That next step includes seeking employment in the business sector and looking for volunteer opportunities. Ware wants to work in a human resource and employment services role and help others find jobs that fit theirs and employers’ needs.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468