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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Mother and Daughter Receive Bachelor's Degrees on the Same Day

By Betsy Hnath

When Villa Cadle receives her bachelor's degree from Old Dominion University on May 5, she won't be looking to the stands to see her mother applaud.

That's because Villa Cadle Sr. (both women share the same name; it's a family tradition) will be the next in line to get her own bachelor's degree.

The younger Cadle (who goes by her middle name, Addison) will graduate with a degree in computer science from the Strome College of Business. Villa will earn a degree in sociology from the College of Arts and Letters. They would ordinarily participate in different ceremonies. The University made an exception.

"We figured out last year that we'd graduate in the same semester," Villa said. "I asked Addison first about sharing the moment, and she wanted to. She's proud of me. So I asked ODU, and they said 'yes.'"

A single mother of two (son Todd is finishing his first year at the Virginia Military Institute) Villa earned her associate's degree while pregnant with Addison. When she decided to go back to school for her bachelor's, she said Addison was her "biggest cheerleader and coach."

"She didn't get to finish school because she had me," Addison said. "She worked really hard for so many years to keep us going, so I was really proud of her to take that step for herself."

But going back to school after such a long break posed a significant challenge: technology. Having Addison on campus made the learning curve gentler.

"When I started college the first time, if I had to do a research paper I looked at a card catalog! We didn't have computers," Villa said. "Addison's got a heart of gold and helped me with all this technology."

While Villa relied on Addison's technical expertise, Addison received emotional support from her mother when she needed it most.

"She'd check in on me during finals," Addison said. "She'd ask 'Do you need me to grab you something to eat? Can I get you anything?' We'd support each other, kind of in different ways, but we were there for each other."

Some might find it challenging to share their undergraduate experience with parent. For Addison, it was a plus.

"It made us a lot closer," Addison said. "She was here for a major part of my life, going through almost the exact same thing as me. It's a special kind of connection that you can't really put into words."

Both women share another special connection: They love being Monarchs.

"I get nervous butterflies thinking about graduation day, but when I turned in my last paper, I felt nostalgic," Addison said. "I'll miss a lot of aspects of being a student. My life is going to change so much."

People "underestimate ODU all the time," Villa said.

"I remember one time, I wore all my VMI stuff to my work," she said. "She's like 'Mom, we're ODU Monarchs and we need to be proud of that!' I'm always a Monarch, and I'd be perfectly happy being on campus a little longer!"

The big question: Who takes the stage first?

"I really want my mom to go first and she really wants me to," Addison said. "The best would be if we could do it together. We've shared this whole experience; I'd like to share that, too."

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