The Catholic University of America

May 16, 2009

CUA Awards Diploma Posthumously to "Lifelong Learner"

Shirley Ann Prince, 62, Was Studying for Her Bachelor's Degree
Shirley Ann Prince (center) with Sara Thompson, dean of Metropolitan School, and Rod Paige, then U.S. secretary of education, at a 2004 celebration marking the 25th anniversary of CUA's college for adult students.

The daughter of a sharecropper, Shirley Ann Prince had come a long way since her childhood in Willington, S.C., a small town on Route 81 close to the Georgia border.

Prince, who had dropped out of school in 11th grade, moved from Willington - population 177 - to Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s. After earning her high school diploma and serving as valedictorian of her night school class, she enrolled at what was then CUA's Metropolitan College in spring 2003 to earn a bachelor's degree.

But on March 12, her quest to earn a college degree was cut short when Prince died suddenly after suffering a heart attack at the age of 62. CUA decided to honor her dream by awarding Prince a diploma posthumously at the university's 120th Annual Commencement on Saturday, May 16.

Sara Thompson, dean of the Metropolitan School of Professional Studies, presented Prince's CUA diploma to her daughter, Sharon Barnes, and two grandsons, Malik Kelly-Barnes, 12, and Diallo Kelly-Barnes, 10.

Thompson remembers Prince as "a true lifelong learner with a bright and confident spirit. She was quite beloved. We will miss her. Shirley was dedicated to her studies, and determined to pursue her lifelong dream of completing her bachelor's degree and becoming an advocate for children with special needs." 

Dean Thompson presents Shirley Prince's diploma to her daughter, Sharon Barnes.

Prince's daughter says that her mother "was always a go-getter. She was always striving to do better, to go further with her education."

Prince also had worked for a number of years as a paraprofessional in the D.C. Public School system. She was living with her daughter in Temple Hills, Md., at the time of her death.

Thompson awarded 27 other diplomas to the Metropolitan School's May 2009 graduates, five of whom completed the Master of Arts in Human Resource Management program.