When Susan Christensen Bessinger walked the tree-lined procession to Utah State University's graduation Saturday in her cap and gown, she didn't walk alone.
Her dad, USU Professor Emeritus Paul Christensen, was alongside. And accompanying them both was a tradition of USU degrees.Susan's bachelor of science in pre-law is the 16th USU degree in the Christensens' immediate family.
The tradition began with her father, Paul, who got a master's degree in soil science from USU in 1948. After completing a doctorate at Rutgers, he returned to Utah and served as a USU Extension soil scientist and professor in the soils department from 1954 to 1980.
Along the way, he and his wife Beth had six children, and each has earned at least one degree from USU. Proving themselves to be loyal Aggies, most of the children are married to people with USU degrees.
Eldest daughter Karen Luthy earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1965, followed by a master's degree in 1969. Her husband David received a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1968 and a master's in business administration in 1971. He received a doctorate at Indiana and is an accounting professor at USU.
Eldest son Mark earned three degrees from USU: a bachelor's in political science in 1969, a master's in psychology in 1971 and a doctorate in educational psychology in 1973. Mark, who works for the Colorado-based National Chiropractic Board, is married to Janet Jensen of Hyrum. She received a bachelor's degree in elementary education from USU in 1973.
Another son, Roger, who got a bachelor's degree in political science from USU in 1972, is now a lawyer in Salt Lake City. His wife, Elaine Wright, has a 1970 bachelor's degree in German from USU.
Son Dan got a bachelor's degree in journalism from USU in 1976 and is studying architecture at the University of Utah.
Son Reed has a 1981 bachelor's degree in biology from USU. He is now a doctor for the Army, serving in Germany. His wife, Miriam Bennion, has a 1983 elementary education bachelor's degree from USU.
Susan is married to Sam Bessinger, a Bakersfield, Calif., attorney. He has a 1972 bachelor's degree in political science from USU.
Twelve people: 16 USU degrees. "And I'm not even counting nieces and nephews," said Paul Christensen.
He credits his wife for the family's academic achievement. "She kept the kids working hard while I was out doing work for the university."