Seven Decades After First Enrolling, UA Student Set to Receive Degree

Seven Decades After First Enrolling, UA Student Set to Receive Degree

Pat Cassity enrolled at UA in 1947.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The phrase “good things come to those who wait,” is fitting for Pat Cassity’s walk across the stage at Friday afternoon’s commencement ceremony at The University of Alabama.

Unlike her fellow graduates, the moment Cassity receives her diploma will be the culmination of a journey that started when she enrolled at UA in the summer of 1947.

According to Cassity, 87, a Tuscaloosa native whose parents attended the University, her education at UA started when she was 8. While in elementary school, she took piano lessons from UA instructors every Tuesday and Thursday morning before walking to school nearby.

Although she enjoyed the piano, she soon fell in love with the violin and eventually took private lessons at UA when she was 14.

“After taking music lessons for most of my young life at the University, I knew I wanted to continue studying music at UA,” Cassity said. “I enrolled when I was 17 years old to pursue my bachelor of music degree.”

Cassity enrolled in 1947 and initially enjoyed her time. She was a member of Alpha Xi Delta and played violin in the university symphony orchestra, as required for all music majors. But, she grew weary.

“After a while, I became tired of having to practice music five hours a day,” Cassity said. “I think I just stressed out because of all the performances and intense music theory, composition and orchestration classes that were required for music majors back then.”

Looking to get away from everything, Cassity withdrew from the University and moved to Alaska to take a clerical position at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. But it didn’t take long for her to realize she had made a mistake.

“I really regretted not sticking it out because I was close to finishing,” Cassity said. “It was a very poor decision, and I wished I would’ve stayed.”

Cassity will graduate on Friday with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Cassity held several positions in the military. She met her husband, Bernard, when she worked with the Air Force at Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile. Once Brookley closed, the two took jobs at Redstone Arsenal in Hunstville, where Pat still resides, and eventually started a family. But, as time went on, her husband could see how Pat regretted her decision to leave UA and often encouraged her to go back to finish her degree.

“Bernard knew in my heart of hearts that I longed to finish what I started,” Cassity said. “He said we could find someone to help with the children, and we could do whatever it took to get my degree. But, he traveled a lot through work, and I just couldn’t do it.”

Cassity became a Realtor in 1979 and still works some to this day. The couple’s two children, Bernard Jr. and Allison, as well as two grandchildren attended the University.

Last June, her husband of 56 years died. In an effort to make closure, Cassity started thinking about how she could finish her degree. Earlier this spring, she was flipping through the UA National Alumni Association magazine when she saw an ad for the Back to Bama program, a distance learning program in UA’s College of Continuing Studies. She called Miranda Carlisle in UA Student Services two days after Easter to see if she was eligible.

“I thought it might be a longshot when they said my transcript had been archived,” Cassity said while laughing.

On her birthday last month, Cassity received a gift she said she will never forget. As fate would have it, she had accumulated enough credit hours all those years ago to meet the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies through the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Cassity said. “If I didn’t receive my cap and gown the other day, I still wouldn’t think it was real. I’m so thankful for Miranda, Carmen Kelly, Misty Cain, Mary Ellen Hanna and all of the University staff who helped make my dream come true.”

Cassity said she hopes others will take advantage of the Back to Bama program because it allows those who might’ve wandered off the path to complete their journeys at UA.

“It’s amazing how you can make anything into a positive,” Cassity said. “It’s almost like grace. I’ve been given such an amazing gift by the University.”


Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications,, 205-348-8325