When Trudy Sayers was in junior high school, her mother occasionally helped her with homework.
When Gillian Sayers got to college, she asked her daughter to help her figure out mathematical equations. Now, Trudy and Gillian - the mother and daughter who have studied together for more than a decade - are both graduating from Brigham Young University."We've been able to do a lot of things together," said Gillian, 47.
The Sayerses are among approximately 3,800 BYU students who will receive degrees this week. Commencement is slated for Thursday, while college convocations will be held Friday.
Trudy Sayers, 25, started classes at BYU soon after graduating from Provo High School in 1991. She interrupted her studies in elementary education for an LDS Church mission to Sacramento, Calif.
Meanwhile, Gillian Sayers earned an associate's degree in social work from Utah Valley State College in 1996 and then started taking classes in family science at BYU. Although the mother and daughter have a close relationship, graduating together wasn't premeditated.
"I think they knew for a little while, but they didn't plan it that way," said Rod Sayers, Gillian's husband and Trudy's father. "It was just a coincidence, really."
The Sayerses immigrated to the United States from England in 1976. Several years later in California, Rod was injured in a job-related accident that left him unable to continue working. So the Sayerses lived on the small stipend they received from the state for caring for foster children.
But about the time Trudy entered high school, the family moved to Utah and decided that taking in foster children was no longer feasible. Gillian looked for a job but only found positions that paid minimum wage.
"I decided I had to have an education so I could get income to support us for the rest of our lives because Rod can't work," Gillian said.
She worked the late shift at Stouffer Foods Corp. in Springville while attending classes in the mornings. Not only did she complete requirements for a bachelor's degree, but Gillian also managed to become a certified family life educator through the National Council on Family Relations - a rare feat except among those holding master's or doctorate degrees.
Now, Gillian, like thousands of other college graduates, is scouring the job market. Her experience and degree give her reason to be optimistic that she'll find something that pays significantly higher than what she's ever earned before.
"I've got a nice prospect in Oregon and another in Clearfield," she said. "We're crossing our fingers in hopes one of them works out."
Trudy, meanwhile, is teaching second-graders as an intern at Southland Elementary School in Riverton. She hopes that the Jordan School District will renew her contract at the end of the school year.
Graduation for Gillian and Trudy is significant not just because they will be doing it together, but also because they will become the first female members of their family to graduate from college. Also, Gillian was able to overcome the obstacles that face nontraditional college students.
"I thought when I went back to school that it would be hard because I was older," Gillian said. "But it wasn't that way at all. You're just a student learning like everybody else."
The mother and daughter enrolled in just one course together, but helped each other with class-work several times. They also met on campus often to eat or just talk. While graduation marks a milestone for both, the pair also feel somewhat saddened that they likely won't be together as much.
"But she comes over to our house all the time to eat all our food anyway," joked Rod, who also participated in the family schooling affair by attending many of Gillian's classes with her.
Gillian got special permission to receive her diploma at the convocation for the David O. McKay School of Education instead of the one for the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences so she could walk across the stage with her daughter. They'll also go together to Thursday's commencement, at which Elder Henry B. Eyring of the LDS Church Quorum of Twelve Apostles will preside.
Scheduled to receive honorary doctoral degrees Thursday are Sir John Marks Templeton, founder of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion and the Templeton Foundation, and Roger Rosenblatt, a journalist, author, playright and teacher. Several Presidential Citations also will be awarded during the commencement exercises, which begins at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Marriott Center.