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Mom Survives Travails to Graduate Magna Cum Laude

At 13, she watched her alcoholic father empty a 16-gauge shotgun into her family’s car and home. She dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help raise her siblings. She married and divorced young, raising her own child alone. At 27, she tired of the back-breaking physical labor she performed building mobile homes and operating a rock crusher in local quarry. She began to work towards a GED diploma. Today, Angela Howell prepares to don a cap and gown and graduate magna cum laude from UALR.

Last week, the bachelor of business administration in management information systems was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, competing on a UALR team in the national finals of the Microsoft Inc. Imagine Cup competition and a chance to go to Cairo for the international finals.

angela-howellWhy? She was determined that her life would not become a welfare statistic.

How? The Mabelvale resident credits UALR’s Student Support Services – particularly Yvonne Delnis and Gus Swain – that provided her with confidence to face the first math class since the eighth grade. She also credits her second husband, Danny Howell, for the inspiration to go the distance.

“I was very fortunate to have found a wonderful husband for 27 years who encouraged and believed in me,” she said.

They attended college together for five years, taking the same classes until he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Later, he was diagnosed with brain cancer and she postponed classes to nurse him. He died two years ago.

Fighting cancer became a goal of her Imagine Cup team. Her team, PRODIGY – Positioning Research on Dynamic Information Globally Yielded – proposes using bioinformatics to uncover and eradicate causes of childhood cancer. It harnesses the power of technology to provide a mechanism through which parents, doctors and medical researchers can enter data into a worldwide database.

“I entered the Microsoft Imagine Cup, software development competition, which gave me the opportunity to use innovative technology in the fight for cancer that could have a global impact on humanity for many generations to come,” she said.

Angela Howell will walk in her well-deserved cap and gown in UALR’s commencement on May 16 at the Jack Stephens Center. Among the witnesses will be her daughter, Amanda Howell, who is following in her mother’s footsteps a freshman at UALR, and 11-year-old granddaughter Ashley Floyd, a gifted and talented student at Pine Forest Elementary in Maumelle, hoping to be the family’s third-generation college graduate.