The path toward a college degree was a personal and emotional journey for Debbie Hendryx. When she arrived at the RSU campus, she thought, “What am I doing here?”
After years of dreaming about college and wanting more for herself and her family, she was terrified. As a young girl – and later a wife who was physically and emotionally abused by a man she would eventually find the courage to leave – she was taught that her job was to work and take care of the children. College was only a dream.
She turned her dream into reality, but the road wasn’t easy. Last spring, her son committed suicide, leaving her to raise her grandchildren. It was a devastating time, but Debbie says that her classes at RSU helped her find a place of hope and strength, and led her to a process of healing.
“I hope my story can help show people what’s possible,” she said. “You really can overcome great adversity – I’m living proof of that.”
The title of her Senior Capstone Project is “Beginning with Death,” and includes four oil paintings, each representing the aftermath of her son’s death. The first painting, “Stormy Sonset,” was created the weekend her son died. The most recent painting, “Life is Beautiful,” represents the beauty of her son’s short life, and her return to a functional, productive life. Her senior project also includes a series of five poems about his death.
Her senior project also included a paper on the search for the meaning of life and its representation in Buddhist tradition and Platonic philosophy, with examples from literature ranging from Emily Dickenson and Mary Shelley, to contemporary lyrics by Monty Python and modern horror literature in the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
After graduation, she will serve as an adjunct instructor at RSU while completing a second bachelor’s degree – a B.F.A. in Visual Art – and plans to enroll in graduate school.