MBA Graduate Says She did it for Mom

MBA Graduate Says She did it for Mom

MOUNT OLIVE- The University of Mount Olive (UMO) will graduate 375 students this Saturday, May 7. The Mother’s Day weekend celebration will be especially meaningful for Goldsboro resident April Thigpen.

Prior to enrollment at UMO, Thigpen attended Wayne Early Middle College High School. She was dually enrolled in high school and college courses and graduated in 2008. She received her associate’s degree in 2010 from Wayne Community College.

As a Goldsboro resident, Thigpen turned to the convenient one-night-a-week program at UMO so she could be close to her family. In December 2012, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and health care management, graduating magna cum laude.

However, in February of 2013, disaster stuck for Thigpen and her family.

“I found out my mother had stage-four lung cancer. As an only child, I placed everything on hold to be with my family during this challenging time,” Thigpen recalled. “Together, we went through various types of chemotherapy, only to find out the cancer was not responding to treatment.”

Thigpen wanted to give her mother the opportunity to see her accomplish another educational milestone, so she applied for the MBA program at UMO in 2013, but was not accepted.

“Even though I was not initially accepted into the program, God blessed me and my family. My mother was placed on a ventilator in January of 2015, and it was removed nearly a month later. After that her health continued to progress for the better.  Looking at her today, you would never know she has been through so many obstacles,” said Thigpen.

After her mother’s recovery, Thigpen decided to reapply for the MBA program at UMO.  She was accepted in the spring of 2015.

“Overcoming these personal and academic struggles motivated me to stay strong both inside and outside the classroom,” she said.

While completing her master’s degree, Thigpen has worked as the human resources director at an intellectual and developmental disability provider agency in Goldsboro.  She hopes that her MBA will continue to enhance her quality of work and will allow her to pursue higher management positions.

One professor who greatly influenced Thigpen during her journey at UMO was Dr. Deborah Houston.

“Dr. Houston told me that the ability to keep going, even in the face of adversity, is an ability that can make all the difference in the world. She told me that perseverance is the key to success!  That has stuck with me and has been my inspiration whenever I have felt overwhelmed,” said Thigpen.

On May 7, Thigpen will be the first in her family to graduate with a master’s degree, and she is excited to celebrate her success and perseverance with her husband, Derrick; her 14-year-old stepdaughter, Jasmin; her dad, Ron Summerlin; and especially her mom, Fran Summerlin.

“My mom is a kind, loving, and strong woman, who has taken a devastating diagnosis and has persevered, by the grace of God,” Thigpen said.  “I now recognize how much I am a true reflection of my mom.  Her perseverance has influenced me to become the woman I am today. I want to thank her for remaining strong and supporting me throughout my journey. As she has listened to all my fears, frustrations, hopes, and dreams, I can only imagine her thoughts, her prayers, and her hopes for me as her only child.  I am so thankful to celebrate another milestone and another Mother’s Day together.”

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit