Baldwin Sally Gronniger has helped hundreds of Baker University students receive diplomas. On Sunday, she'll get one with her name on it.
It's tough telling how many people can thank Sally Gronniger for helping them earn their degrees at Baker University.
Even the source doesn't know.
"I would say probably 150 a semester, and that's probably a modest guess. It's really hard to say," said Gronniger, a Baker staff member who has been tutoring students and scheduling tutors for them since the late 1980s.
On Sunday, Gronniger's helping hands will snare a diploma, ending a quest that began nearly 10 years ago.
"After I graduated from Baldwin High School, I sat out a semester but I did go to Baker in the spring of 1971," she said. "I just went for a little while, then I got married, had children, raised a family, did a bunch of dumb jobs ..."
And decided that a degree was a necessity. In the mid-'80s, Gronniger enrolled at Johnson County Community College while working in Lenexa.
Tired of the daily drive to and from work and feeling she was stuck in an unpromising job, she took her resume to several offices at Baker. In 1988, she was hired as a secretary at the Academic Skills Center and Computer Lab.
Before long, she was organizing professional and student tutors to help students. She was even tutoring students herself.
"It just sort of evolved into part of my job," she said. "Now I'm kind of a jack of all trades. But no math. I'll draw the line at math."
In her off hours, Gronniger was taking classes. She worked over lunch hours and on evenings and weekends to finish her assignments.
"I have not missed taking classes for one semester or one summer session for a period of seven years and some months," she said. "I was afraid if I took a break, I wouldn't come back."
During commencement, her persistence will pay off when she accepts a degree in English. A son, Michael Hornberger, will graduate with her.
"I feel a tremendous sense of pride that we can graduate in the same ceremony," she said.
She said her feelings about her own degree hadn't set in.
"I've concentrated so much on work, school and family that it doesn't feel quite real. It's going to be so different not to feel that extra stress, that extra pressure," she said.
- For a schedule of graduation events at Baker, Haskell, Kansas University and area high schools, look in the "Celebrate Graduation" tabloid in today's Journal-World.