When sisters Robin McIver-Brown ’20 and Rhea McIver-Gibbs ’20 decided to pursue doctoral degrees at the University of Redlands School of Education, they leaned on each other and their family members for mental and emotional support.
“Our parents always said that every time we went to school, they went to school,” says McIver-Brown. The sisters, who are the first in their family to receive doctoral degrees, wanted their parents to witness their completion of the program.
Their father, Floyd McIver, the son of a farmer and a steel industry worker, had always dreamed of attending the U of R. In a roundabout way, the sisters say, they achieved that dream for him. “Our dad worked hard in the steel industry as a logistics supervisor, and our mom was a homemaker,” says McIver-Brown. “It doesn't take a certain kind of person to produce people with doctorates. It just takes great people around you that say you can do it.”
While it was a lifelong dream of theirs to earn doctoral degrees, McIver-Brown and McIver-Gibbs also wanted to enhance their professional opportunities. McIver-Gibbs, a human resources lead personnel agent for the Rialto Unified School District, notes that job postings and applications often place value on terminal degrees.
After each working in education for 30 years, first in the classroom and later in administration, the pair decided to attend the University of Redlands because they were looking for an environment where they could grow and learn by interacting with other students. It was paramount the program be flexible with their busy work schedules.
Even so, neither were expecting the age and professional diversity of their cohort. Students came from different backgrounds, which further enriched classroom discussions.
In addition to their parents’ encouragement, both McIver-Brown and McIver-Gibbs had husbands and children supportive of their decision to continue their education. “While we come from a family of hard workers, people didn’t always understand the demands the program placed on our time,” says McIver-Brown. “But what allowed us to overcome that was remembering this was a family decision. If you don’t have the right people alongside you, you won’t succeed.”
McIver-Gibbs, who spent nearly two months sick with pneumonia while finishing her dissertation, says she was only able to do so with the support of her family and her parents’ constant encouragement.
A few months after graduating, McIver-Brown and McIver-Gibbs’ father unfortunately passed away. But the sisters maintain that his ability to see his daughters graduate was a gift. McIver-Gibbs adds, “The fact that he passed knowing that we had finished the program and had seen us in our robes—the experience wouldn’t have been so sweet had he not been there.”
And McIver-Brown and McIver-Gibbs are paying it forward by setting an example for their children and building the family legacy of valuing education.
“Jobs may come and go, but education provides a sense of freedom and opportunity,” says McIver-Gibbs. “Not only is education something that can’t be taken away from you, but it puts you in a different position to make decisions and be more in control of your life.”
Learn more about the School of Education.