Bama by Distance Graduate Shows There’s Always an Opportunity

  • July 26th, 2021

As someone who grew up in — and later married into — the military, Lillian Lofton is accustomed to nonstop changes and moves.

Smiling at the camera is a man and a woman, dressed in a military uniform and formal gown.
Lillian Lofton and her husband John Lofton pose at a U.S. Air Force Ball.

“There are so many different aspects and experiences growing up military,” Lofton said. “I enjoyed the moving. I enjoyed meeting the new people, and I enjoyed having best friends all over the world.”

Throughout her unconventional journey her educational path has been full of twists, turns and even a few stops along the way.

But, after seeing a television commercial she happened to catch while watching a UA football game, Lofton charted a new course that would lead to completing her bachelor’s degree. And this July, just two months after turning 50 years old, she will receive her degree in general studies from the College of Human Environmental Sciences through the Bama by Distance program.

Born in Guam and schooled throughout the U.S. and Europe, Lofton eventually graduated at Croughton High School in England, then started her college education at Riverside Community College in California as a walk-on basketball player. She attended the school for just a year before transferring to Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California, as a part-time student.

In 1993, Lofton decided to join her sister who was stationed at the U.S. Army’s Fort Stewart near Hinesville, Georgia, and care for her sister’s children while she was at work. Lofton attended Savannah State University for one term, and at this point, had almost completed her associate degree. But she found herself wanting to work more than study.

A family of four looks at the camera and smiles and poses. There are three females and one male
Lillian Lofton, left, is with her family, daughter LaMara, middle, husband John and their youngest daughter Laila.

Fast forward to 2000. Lofton journeyed to Alaska to attend the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, graduating with her associate degree in 2001. With that, she then went on to meet her husband and Alabama football fan, John, who was active-duty Air Force, and his two children, Shunté and Antonio. They got married in 2006. The couple would have two daughters, LaMara and Laila, while traveling the world, from Minot, North Dakota, all the way to Osan, South Korea.

Lofton was in Utah in January 2015, while the Crimson Tide was playing against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, when a commercial came across the TV.

“Have you finished your degree yet? Why not finish your degree at Alabama?” Lofton said of the commercial.

And so, she applied, without telling her husband or children, to see what would happen.

“I couldn’t believe it. I had to go through all of my school stuff and apply for all my transcripts just to see if I can get in,” Lofton said. “And then I was accepted.”

Through the Bama by Distance program, Lofton was able to experience a variety of classes on her schedule. Taking one class per term, it took six years and 10 terms for Lofton to earn her degree.

Now, Lofton is eager to start her next venture — a nonprofit organization aimed at helping older women understand their health and wellness. After going through her own health care experiences, she realized she could do more for her community.

“Well as the motto of the school says, this is Where Legends Are Made,” Lofton said. “I hope that I am able to do something legendary with this nonprofit, to really reach out to women and let them know they are not alone. With what I have learned, I can take that and use it to be able to meet women where they are, whether it is dealing with health issues, or even dealing with end-of-life issues or family issues. Hopefully, if I can reach women to help them get through this particular time in their life, then hopefully they can go out into the community and help others.”

Contact

Caroline Gazzara-McKenzie, Strategic Communications, caroline.mckenzie@ua.edu or 205-348-0825

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.