Barry McNamara  |   Published May 18, 2016

‘Well-earned success’

Custodian Belinda Hall completes long journey with Monmouth diploma
  • Belinda Hall exits the Wallace Hall Plaza stage with her diploma in hand during Monmouth College’s 159th Commencement Exercises on May 15.
About 10 years ago, one of Belinda Hall’s two children needed help with his math homework.

“That was back when I could take one class at a time at Monmouth,” said Hall, who has served as a custodian for the College since 2004. “I could make up the time by staying an hour later at the end of the day. I took a math class taught by Professor (Lyle) Welch, because I wanted to help Sam with his math.”

Sam was lucky. It turns out that his math tutor was a future magna cum laude college graduate. On May 15, Hall was one of 251 students to receive a Monmouth College diploma, majoring in business.

After that initial math class, Hall continued to take a class at a time for several semesters, adding to a base she acquired nearly three decades ago when she took a few classes at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Ill.

“When I was the ‘right’ age for college, I wanted to get married and start a family,” she said. “I could’ve gone to school, but I quit. I think I wanted it more now.”

At the start of 2014, Hall began working second shift in the College’s Center for Science and Business, staffing the new academic building from 3-11:30 p.m. That freed her mornings and early afternoons, so she became a full-time student.

Because of her work schedule, there was no time for procrastination. In fact, it was the opposite. Hall worked days ahead on major assignments, completing them early so she could focus on daily homework. She often did her schoolwork in the same academic building she cleaned.

“I’m not going to lie, working full-time and doing this, I sometimes felt that I hadn’t seen my husband in 2-1/2 years,” said Hall. “He’s been very, very good about it.”

Hall said Monmouth’s faculty and her fellow students were also a big source of support.

“I feel like we have the best professors at Monmouth,” she said. “I always knew I could go to any one of them, and they’d help me. They really cheered me on. And the students did, too. These past few months, they’d ask me if I was graduating. I think they were more excited for me than they were for themselves. They were always so helpful.”

And her adviser, Professor Mike Connell, said Hall’s eagerness and attitude toward learning made her easy to help.

“Belinda combines many highly admirable qualities,” Connell said. “In addition to being a hard-worker, she is mature, intelligent and eager to learn – that is the definition of a perfect student. I was happy to help her as her adviser, I was proud to have her in my classes as a student and, as a friend, I rejoice in her well-earned success.”

As Hall walked across the Wallace Hall Plaza stage on May 15, she said she was excited – and relieved.

“This is something I really wanted – a goal I achieved, and something off my bucket list,” she said. “I remember feeling relief and a sense of accomplishment.”

Earning a Monmouth diploma also opened a new chapter in Hall’s life. Her final day as a Monmouth custodian was two days before Commencement. She is starting a fire-restoration business with her sister, former College custodian Billie Jo Anderson.

“After someone has a fire, we’ll go in and clean it all up – carpet, upholstery and disaster restoration,” said Hall, whose father was also in that line of work.

The sisters expect to have clientele within a 50- to 60-mile radius of Monmouth.

Hall said she’ll rely on lessons learned at Monmouth, including a valuable Business Writing class and the business terminology she learned.

“I remember the stories that Professor Connell and Professor (Tom) Prince would tell and how they would pertain to real situations,” she said. “They would always get us to ask ‘Why? Why is this happening?’”

Why did this happen for Hall?

“This is what I really wanted,” she said of her bachelor’s degree. “I didn’t take it for granted this time.”
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