Despite hardships, husband and wife team set to graduate together

It’s been a long road, but Phoenix and Jacob Gatlin of Bryant will finally participate in commencement together as husband and wife Saturday, May 17, at UALR.

Both will graduate with their associate degrees in general studies, with plans to continue working toward their bachelor’s degrees. They have encouraged each other’s successes so far, even as they persevered through many life-changing events.


In early 2011, Phoenix became pregnant and later that same year, delivered their first daughter via emergency cesarean. Phoenix lost so much blood, a transfusion was required.

“I remember getting the blood transfusion and shortly afterward, sitting in our hospital room catching up on our assignments online,” said Phoenix.

Jacob helped by bringing Phoenix her books and laptop to the hospital and by ensuring she was comfortable while she worked.

Only a few months later, Phoenix continued to struggle with health issues, ultimately requiring an iron infusion through a 12-hour intravenous drip. The 12 hours was spent studying with her husband while her mother brought food and drinks.

In 2013, Phoenix became pregnant again.

“My spring 2013 semester was so hard. I started having a really hard time with the pregnancy, and we were told that I needed bed rest. We were faced with a possible miscarriage,” she said.

The couple was devastated. Eventually, things started to look up and on Nov. 15, they had their second daughter.

But, by January, Phoenix was dealt another blow when her father died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 66. The family reeled in shock at the loss, but Phoenix said she knows her father will be with her as she and Jacob graduate Saturday.

“Despite all of the hardships we have made it through because of our dedication to each other,” said Phoenix.

“I had many things that could have stopped me. But my husband’s encouragement and support was stronger than all of that.”

Learn how to earn an associate degree at UALR, go to Associate Degree Options.

For more information about the May 17 Commencement, go to 2014 Spring Commencement.

Keep up with what’s happening at UALR; Subscribe to E-News.

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