University Park, IL,
13:35 PM

One of GSU's first alums celebrates granddaughter's accomplishment

Lydia Boone and Mary K Polk

Lydia Boone walked across the stage at Governors State University’s (GSU) Commencement 2023 ceremony to receive her degree while her grandmother, Mary K. Polk, an alumna from 1976, one of GSU’s first graduating classes, celebrated the legacy.

Lydia’s mother, Valerie Boone, contacted GSU to confirm the date that her mother, Mary Polk, graduated. From there the idea of a commencement day surprise began to grow.

Dr. Cheryl Green, President of GSU,  acknowledged both Boone and Polk during her commencement address at the morning ceremony. Green counted the Polk/Boone family story as one of the powerful stories that demonstrate how GSU transforms lives through education.

Boone had no idea that she and her grandmother would be included in Dr. Green's remarks.  

“I could not have been more surprised to hear Dr. Green say our names,” said Boone. “I honestly thought I was going to cry when I walked across the stage. My mother surprised me with this whole ordeal, but I love it. This is truly exciting. My grandma will be ninety-one years old this July, so it was heartfelt to see her sitting there cheering me on.”

After earning a Bachelor of Health Science in Nursing Practice from GSU in 1976, Polk worked at several hospitals throughout Chicago, her most notable being La Rabida Children’sLydia Boone graduation cap Hospital. She then branched out of the hospital setting and started her own nursing business caring for Veterans across the Chicagoland area.

“My grandma completed her degree at GSU while raising five children, in which the eldest was in college himself. She always says, ‘I don’t know how I did that with five kids,’” said Boone.

Polk, who has been a parental figure and a lifelong supporter of her granddaughter in all her decisions, whether good or bad, could not be prouder.

While at GSU, Boone was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society and the National Society of Leadership and Success. One of Boone’s most memorable highlights at GSU was attending classes taught by Professor Anthony Andrews. “He’s a professor that is passionate about his work. He really makes you think about life as a whole. He’s always pushing us to go further in our education and careers,” she said.

Boone came to GSU wanting to prove to herself and her two boys that she could earn her degree. Now she proudly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and hopes to own a title and property management company one day since lending and real estate have always been a field of interest.