A few months after Wendi Mooney turned 50, she went back to college at Fresno Pacific University.
Mooney knew it was a risk. She was deep into her career at The Well Community Church, coordinating the counseling and pastoral-care services. She hadn't been in a classroom since the late 1970s, and never even finished her bachelor's degree at California State University, Fresno. Her biggest fear, she said, was that she wouldn't be able to do graduate work.
But she knew she needed a master's degree to give people the counseling they needed -- the kind of therapy that helps people turn their lives around.
"People's lives are quite messy and complicated," Mooney said. "I needed the education ... to do a better job."
Today, Mooney, who lives in Clovis, will leave Fresno Pacific with a master's in marriage, family and child counseling. At 54, she's well on her way to becoming a licensed counselor and plans to partner with the Neighborhood Thrift Store, a community organization for low-income families, to offer job counseling.
As it turned out, she's not the oldest graduate, either, she said.
"The ageism, that kind of goes away," Mooney said. "I'm a lifelong learner."
Mooney will join more than 400 graduates at commencement, which starts at 10 a.m. for the 208 students earning seminary and traditional master's and undergraduate degrees, and at 6 p.m. for students in the bachelor's degree completion program.
Gary Wall, a graduate of Fresno Pacific and district minister of the Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, will give the address, "What Does This Mean?"
Graduation will be on the East Hall Green, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave., and receptions will follow both ceremonies.
Other upcoming commencements in the region:
Fresno native A. Jerrold Perenchio, who built Univision into the nation's largest Spanish-language television company, will receive an honorary doctorate during commencement.
More than 100 graduates from West Hills Coalinga are expected to attend commencement at 6:30 p.m. May 27 in the Chuck Garten Memorial Stadium, 1200 Sunset Ave. Student body president Thomas Toby will address the class of 2011.