Suffolk University Student Proves It's Never Too Late To Learn

5/2/2003

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Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448

By Tony Ferullo

It was January of last year when Carol Lee Hayon cautiously walked into her first class at Suffolk University. She was the new kid on the block, except that she wasn’t a kid.

In fact, she was 30 years older than most of the other students in the room.

“I was very nervous that day,” said the 48-year-old Hayon, a divorced mother of four teenage children. “I didn’t know anyone or what I was getting into. The other students around campus must have though I was a professor and the professors must have thought I was a graduate student or another professor.”

Living proof that it’s never too late to learn, Hayon is determined to fulfill her dream and graduate from college. Now in her sophomore year, she finds herself completely comfortable within her academic environment. “The students are much more open to me; they even ask for my advice on a lot of things,” she said. “I feel a part of the Suffolk community and that’s a good feeling.”

She credits Marguerite J. Dennis, Suffolk University Vice President of Enrollment and International Programs, for opening the door and welcoming her to enter a new and exciting world. “She helped me to get started,” said Hayon. “I was petrified at the beginning, but she encouraged me that I could do this.”

From the time they first met, Dennis has been impressed with Hayon’s spirit and desire to further her education. “Carol is a special person and a true success story,” said Dennis. “She knows what she wants and she is gaining confidence all the time. She exemplifies what Suffolk is all about – helping people of all ages and from all walks of life to receive an education and go on to lead productive lives.”

Hayon is certainly making a name for herself at Suffolk…and beyond. She is
currently a central figure in an advertising campaign for FleetBank. The campaign, from Boston-based agency Hill, Holliday, appears on television and radio ads throughout the Northeast, and features real Fleet customers and employees expressing Fleet’s commitment to helping customers make smarter financial decisions.

In Hayon’s case, we hear about her courageous journey of returning to school after three decades, thanks to the financial assistance and guidance provided by FleetBank.

“It’s incredible how everything is working out,” said Hayon. “Suffolk and Fleet have helped me to turn my life around.”

As a full-time student, Hayon, an interpersonal and organizational communication major, is presently taking five courses and maintaining good grades. “Carol is committed to receiving a good education,” said Suffolk University Communications and Journalism Professor Joshua Guilar. “She is a pleasure to have in class because she tells stories of her life’s experiences and the other students really enjoy what she has to say.”

When Hayon talks about her personal life, everyone listens. She lives in a tiny apartment in Cambridge, while her children (Gabriel 17, Rachel, 16, Solomon and Benjamin, 13-year-old twins) live in a huge house in Sharon with her ex-husband. That is the same home Hayon was living in prior to her divorce. She agreed to this unique arrangement because she didn’t want to disrupt her children’s lives.

“It was the hardest decision I ever had to make,” she said. “I did it for the kids. I wanted them to have a normal life.”

While she may not live with them, Hayon talks with her children almost every night and sees them on weekends and during school vacations. They like going to the movies and rollerblading. They even do homework together.

“Benjamin and Solomon help me in math because I need it,” laughed Hayon. “Rachel and I discuss literature. I’m sure Gabriel (a senior at Sharon High School) and I will study together next year when he’s a freshman in college.”

Hayon has always stressed the importance of education to her children. For years, she has cared about their grades; now they care about hers. “They tease me a lot,” she said. “They’re always saying, ‘Mom, school isn’t easy as you thought it was,’ and they’re right.”

She looks back at that first day attending Suffolk as a learning experience. She knows it was the first big step she had to take in order to reach her final destination.

“Going to college is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said Hayon, who wants to become an informational architect. “Now, even at my age, I know it’s the right decision. My goal is to walk across that stage in two years and receive my degree when I’m 50 years old.”

And what plans does she have then?

“I don’t know,” said Carol Lee Hayon, with a smile. “Maybe I’ll go for my master’s.”

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