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 Life-long Dream of Attaining Degree Becomes Reality

When Judy Eve Lawrence-Lamb puts on her cap and gown Saturday, May 4, and graduates magna cum laude from Norfolk State University, it will be the culmination of a dream that she has striven toward for 44 years.

On that day, the 62-year-old Lawrence-Lamb—a daughter, mother, wife, grandmother, great-grandmother, student and two-time cancer survivor— will finally have her college diploma. A diploma that she said is more than a piece of paper to her, it is a living and breathing document that embodies the inspirations and aspirations of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and generations yet unborn.

While cloaked in the pride and joy of her family, Lawrence-Lamb’s day will be even sweeter and more poignant, because her 37-year-old son, Allen L. Boddie-Chapman, a single father of four, will graduate summa cum laude from Norfolk State at that same ceremony. An Honors College Parsons Scholar, Boddie-Chapman will get his degree in political science. She praises her son, whom she said has had his own challenges. “Allen has been able to graduate with honors while setting an example for his children,” she said. “They love and respect him and he has helped me and has been dad to his deceased brother’s children.”

Over the four decades since she graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Suffolk, Lawrence-Lamb tried several times to get her college degree. After high school, she attended Bronx Community College in New York, but dropped out when she married at 19. As the years passed, she attended the Stenography Academy, as a way to provide a better life for her family. But struggle and tragedy seemed to keep her from her dream. Lawrence-Lamb found herself back in Virginia, as a single parent. She attended Paul D. Camp Community College several times, taking a class here and there as often as she could.

Finally in 2009, at 58 years old and after suffering the death of a son, Lawrence-Lamb set about attaining her dream. “It was no longer about me,” she said. “I decided to do it for my family. As a result of Allen and me returning to college, my daughter and granddaughter have returned to school and are planning to transfer to NSU. Both are maintaining a 4.0,” said Lawrence-Lamb.

But tragedy would strike again by way of a call from her doctor telling her that she had breast cancer. Through an aggressive treatment and mastectomy to eradicate the cancer, Lawrence-Lamb continued to attend Norfolk State—and miraculously maintained a 4.0 grade point average. She even served as the president of the Golden Key International Honour Society. As she made her way to her final semester, bad news came once again. Her cancer had returned. Still she kept her resolve to finish, taking classes online because of her weakened immune system due to intense chemotherapy. Lawrence-Lamb continues to press on, focusing on her future. She is currently attending Norfolk Theological Seminary and College and writing a novel.

She is grateful for the support that she has found at Norfolk State and especially from Dr. Clarence Coleman, advisor for Golden Key. “Dr. Coleman told me something that I hadn’t heard since my father died. He told me, ‘I believe in you,’” said Lawrence-Lamb. “I found some very good people at Norfolk State that I will never forget. They showed me that they cared about me.”

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