Bill Hamilton and his children, Will and Wesley, never intended to graduate at the same time, but it somehow fell into place for all of them.
He made the decision to pursue a doctorate in education at Augusta University in 2016 — 25 years after finishing his master’s in business administration and health care administration at Georgia State University.
“The construct of the EdD program was such that my fellow students were teaching professionals, most in K-12 classrooms or administration,” he said. “While I was the farthest removed from being a student, our cohort was a close-knit group that provided me support to minimize the non-traditional student feeling.”
Will Hamilton, 24, has been attending Georgia College for the past six years. He graduated in 2018 with a bachelor of arts in political science and graduates this year with a masters of public administration. He said his time in Milledgeville, Georgia has been “a great experience.” He most recently was the graduate assistant for the department of government and sociology.
“I made life-long friends during my undergraduate stint that I still talk to everyday,” Will said. “Milledgeville will always be a fond memory filled with great people, interesting places and stories that I can pass on. As a graduate student, I have made new friends and have enjoyed working for the school … I have loved working with the faculty.”
Wesley Hamilton, 21, has been attending the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia since 2016. She is on track to graduate magna cum laude with a bachelor of music performance, viola and a bachelor of music theory. In the fall, she will be starting her master’s in music performance at The Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University.
“My overall college experience has been immensely rewarding,” she said. “I took every opportunity that was given to me and put my total focus into learning as much as I could. I always aimed to be a better musician, student and friend than I was the day before. UGA has led me to meet the most incredible and lifelong friends, professors, mentors, and colleagues that have changed my life and the way I perceive the world and music around me.”
Wesley realized they would all graduate together at the beginning of last year when her brother was in the middle of his master’s degree and their dad was entering his final year of his doctorate program. Wesley said they all began their programs in different years, so they had no intention of graduating as a family.
“I never had any doubt that my dad, brother and I would all follow through with our programs,” she said. “My family is highly driven, especially when it comes to education.”
Will Hamilton said they’ve been encouraging each other the entire time.
“My dad has helped me with conceptualizing and reality testing my research projects,” Will said. “We were always texting and FaceTiming each other when a problem would arise. It was nice knowing that during finals week, we were all suffering together.”
For Bill Hamilton, he never stopped working and teaching while he was in school.
“This required me to switch from teacher to student and back again, on a daily basis for three years,” he said. “Ultimately, it made me a much more effective and thoughtful teacher.”
Bill said the family has been in continual state of student stress over the past three years. But at the same time, from his point of view, it was a refreshing time for all of them.
“In real time, we experienced the travails, difficulties, successes, failures, stumbles and ultimate relief of end of each semester. There existed a certain esprit de corps that kept us moving forward, but the real linchpin was Bryn, my wife,” he said. “I don’t think she had planned to have three college students in the family at one time. She kept it all together.”
Will and Wesley have been inspired by their father’s hard work and dedication to getting his degree.
“It has shown me that I want to continue my education in the future,” Will said. “He has been encouraging me to go and get my PhD, which will hopefully happen in the next few years.”
“My dad, before his doctorate, was already one of the most intelligent people I know,” Wesley said. “When he decided to go back to school, I was skeptical of his reasonings due to his demanding job, the coursework and time it would require to complete. He has taught me that you are never too accomplished to continue learning and that education is a lifelong process — a worthwhile lesson to any student.”
Right now, they are planning a beach trip to celebrate, relax and reflect on their accomplishments. They are also hoping to get a family photo of all three of them in full regalia. The amount of pride the Hamiltons have for one another can’t be tempered with graduations on hold for the time being because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am so proud of my children and Bill,” Bryn said. “This was truly a family affair. I am so excited for the next steps for Will and Wesley as they continue on their life journeys. They each amaze me in their own unique way. I have watched my family take advantage of great opportunities, work through frustrating obstacles, practice, write, rewrite, regroup and practice some more to reach their goals. To say that I am proud would be an understatement.”