Merriam-Webster defines a trailblazer as a person who makes, does, or discovers something new and makes it acceptable or popular. That term couldn’t be more fitting for two ladies who will be prominently featured at Columbus Technical College’s graduation ceremony Thursday, January 26 at 7PM the Columbus Civic Center. Fifty-one-year-old Mary Woyke will be among the 400 or so Columbus Technical College students who qualified for college graduation and nearly 50 more who have earned their GED.
Nearly 25 years ago, Woyke earned her GED after dropping out of high school. Woyke is a data specialist with the Columbus Technical College’s Adult Education division and has been with Adult Ed since 2002. Several years ago, she enrolled in a technical college in Alabama but discovered the college wasn’t accredited and therefore the courses she took didn’t transfer. Woyke felt the time was right to finish what she started and get a college degree so she can focus on a new life chapter. Her co-workers and supervisor at Columbus Technical College gave her an encouraging nudge.
“She shoved me out of my nest,” Woyke said with a laugh. “Here I am helping people get their GED and maybe enroll in college yet I didn’t have a degree myself.”
Mary Woyke (seated) with her work family Hattie Bailey (right) and Adult Ed Dir. April Hopson.
Working toward that degree wasn’t easy. Woyke said it wasn’t unusual for her to go to bed at 11:00 at night and wake up at 3:30 in the morning to do homework. All that hard work earned her a GPA worthy of the Zell Miller Scholarship. She also utilizes funds from the Pell grant. Mary Woyke will be collecting her associate degree in business management Thursday and wants to keep going forward.
“I’m currently working on classes that will transfer to Columbus State in an IT program,” she said. “I will be attending college with my daughter this fall. I also want to tell everyone how amazing the teachers are at Columbus Technical College. They all go above and beyond to help their students.”
“I don’t want praise or recognition for what I’ve done,” Woyke said. “I just want to inspire others – especially single moms. Someone else can open the door but it’s up to you to step through it.”
Business Management degree graduate Mary Woyke
She has already inspired her son and husband to enroll in college. Her husband is currently in the same program at Columbus Technical College while her son is brushing up on his math skills in hopes of entering the College’s engineering program.
On the subject of trailblazing and engineers, when Mary Woyke and her fellow graduates wait to collect their diplomas, they will listen to the words of aerospace engineer, Nelda K. Lee. Lee is a 1969 graduate of Auburn University. She was the first woman to log flight hours in the F-15 Eagle Aircraft and was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in February 2016. Columbus Technical College offers an associate degree in Engineering Technology. This degree is transferable to several four-year universities.
Aerospace Engineer and CTC Commencement Speaker, Nelda K. Lee