• Blog
  • 2009
  • Mother of Three, Full-Time Employee and Ordained Minister Earns Bachelor's Degree After 16 Years
Text Size:
Print This Page

Mother of Three, Full-Time Employee and Ordained Minister Earns Bachelor's Degree After 16 Years

Click image to enlarge

Among the graduates who crossed the stage at the college's commencement exercises on Aug. 8 was Virginia Lewis Whittington. She completed her bachelor's degree after a college career that reflects superb time management skills and tremendous perseverance. 

Learn more about this remarkable new alumna of the college in a tribute below by Harold Barley, executive director of Metroplan Orlando and member of the Department of Public Administration's Planning Advisory Board.

A Tribute to Virginia Lewis Whittington
By Harold W. Barley

Virginia Lewis Whittington received her Bachelor's Degree in Public Administration at the University of Central Florida's graduation ceremony on Saturday, August 8, 2009.  This completes a journey that started 16 years ago.

Virginia began taking college level courses at Valencia Community College is 1993.  She enjoyed the learning experience but it was difficult raising three children as a single mother and working at a full-time job with Orange County Government.  Since you only get one chance to raise your children and she needed to work, Virginia needed to postpone her goal of earning a college degree.

In 1997, Virginia accepted a job with Metroplan Orlando.  She held a demanding position yet proved that she was capable of taking on additional responsibilities.  She earned another promotion soon after this.  Her potential for further advancement was recognized so she was encouraged to resume work on her college degree.

With the help of Metroplan Orlando's tuition reimbursement program and the support of her new husband, Virginia returned to Valencia Community College in 2004.  She took 2-3 classes each semester, which is quite a workload for someone with family obligations and a full-time job.

While family, job and school were top priorities for Virginia, she also gave generously of her time to her church -- the New Hope Baptist Church.  This went far beyond attending Sunday services and doing church-sponsored volunteer work.  Virginia had a calling so she became an ordained minister.  This required an even greater commitment to her church -- which she accepted with humility, grace and help from God with her time management skills.  But there was more.  As a result of unexpected circumstances, she needed to assume responsibility for raising a newborn grandchild.

Remarkably, all this did not deter Virginia from her goal of earning a college degree.  In 2006, she was awarded her degree from Valencia Community College.  Her impressive credentials helped her gain acceptance to the University of Central Florida where she started taking classes in 2006. 

Virginia continued taking a few classes each semester at UCF, including summers.  She thoroughly enjoyed her classes, especially those that related to her work.  She was very proud that she had earning straight A's - and then her record was shattered when she got one B.  This was hard but she vowed to work even harder.  Also during this time, she took on additional community volunteer work.  In 2008, she was appointed by the Orange County Board of County Commissioners to serve on the Citizens Review Board.  In addition, she organized a major event in 2009 to prepare young women to go to their high school proms with donated gowns, beauty sessions and etiquette seminars.  The event was a huge success.

Virginia's graduation from the University of Central Florida marks the end of a 16-year journey.  It goes to show that dreams may need to be deferred but not abandoned.  It also demonstrates the value of having top-rated institutions such as Valencia Community College and the University of Central Florida here in our community.  Their programs allow people to grow and prosper.

This mother, grandmother, daughter, wife, friend, ordained minister, church elder, community volunteer and valued employee has earned the right to take a break . . . but Virginia is not expected to slow down.  Coinciding with her graduation, she has received another promotion with Metroplan Orlando.  She is now serving on the organization's management team as the Director of Regional Partnerships.  And given her range of interests, it is unlikely that there will be any free time on her calendar.

Share and Enjoy:

Tags :


The health care informatics master's program at UCF really helped me connect with the industry, meet people at conferences and sit for the most-desired certification exams."
— Michael Neimann M.S. in health care informatics ('14)
My internship with the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I gained an excellent understanding of the medical examiner’s office and the criminal justice field in general."
— Adam Stubley B.S. in criminal justice, criminal profiling certificate ('11)
UCF provides its physical therapy students with an excellent education and prepares them to work in the most challenging of settings."
— Jamie Dyson Rehabilitation Supervisor, Orlando Regional Medical Center
UCF's program provided me the opportunity to expedite my student experience while attaining practical experience working within local health systems."
— Daniel Barr V.P. at National Children's Hospital; M.S. in health sciences, health services administration track ('04)
My master's education helped me see the big picture of the nonprofit industry. UCF showed me how to see the different fundraising tools within the Central Florida area."
— Krysti Griffith Executive Director of Growth from Grief; Master of Nonprofit Management ('12)
The course opened my eyes to grant writing ... I learned a great deal and you [Barbara Howell] are truly an excellent instructor."
— Deborah Reith Master of Public Administration student who secured a $10,000 federal grant through a course project; B.S. in criminal justice ('86)
The skills I learned during my time at UCF are what made my transition to law school so seamless."
— Jacqueline Iaquinta Touro Law Center student; B.S. in legal studies ('10)
As an inaugural graduate of the M.R.A. program at UCF, I can attest to the outstanding curriculum developed for research administrators. "
— April Heyward Post Award Services Coordinator, University of South Carolina; Master of Research Administration ('13)
It was at UCF that I first learned many of the skills that I’ve since honed, including mapping with GIS software - an ability I found invaluable to my search for internships, graduate-level coursework, and employment."
— Richard "Ben" Hagen Research and Communications Associate, New Economy Project, New York City; B.S. in public administration ('10)
I am excited to be able to give back to the program that invested so much in me. It is truly and honor and a privilege."
— Carlos Gual Instructor of Athletic Training; B.S. in athletic training ('09)
The faculty advisor [at my medical school] was amazed that I had the opportunity to truly participate in the full spectrum of research as an undergraduate. "
— Chase Cavayero, medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicince, B.S. in health sciences - pre-clinical ('13) 
Give a Gift - The College of Healh & Public Affairs