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Mother and son in sync for ASU Veterans Honor Stole Ceremony, graduation

May 7, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

When graduating student and U.S. Air Force veteran Barbara Blanchard attended the Arizona State University Veterans Honor Stole Ceremony on Saturday, she was accompanied by another graduating student veteran she knows well: her son, Marine Corps veteran Rodney Buller.

In late 2016, Blanchard knew she was getting close to completing her bachelor of applied sciences in operations management degree.  So she checked her academic records to see how many credits she still needed, and that’s when she realized her requirements would be met the following spring. 

“I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m slated to graduate in spring of 2017,’ and then he said something like ‘Well, that’s when I’m graduating,” recalled Blanchard.  “That’s so awesome ...  we get to walk together.”

Blanchard, who joined the Air Force in 1981 and served for nine years, started her educational journey at a local community college after being laid off from Intel in 2009 when her job and thousands of others were shipped overseas to Ireland.  She then went on to earn a paralegal studies associate degree before finding out that she qualified for a federal program that provides education funds for those whose jobs have gone overseas.  

With funding available, the former Air Force administrative specialist turned to ASU in 2015 to begin her next academic journey. First she considered the W. P. Carey School of Business, but the course load did not fit with her full-time federal job. So she looked into ASU Online, and that’s where she found the right fit to balance work and school.

“I got my Phoenix College degree, and that transferred immediately [to ASU],” Blanchard said. “When I applied [to ASU], I got a call within one hour: ‘Yeah, we’ll take you.’” 

Buller’s educational journey started in the fall of 2013 shortly after leaving the Marines, where he served for 11 years as a helicopter crew chief. He grew up in a military family moving around the country, but eventually family ties brought him to Arizona and ASU appealed to him.

“I looked at the fact that it was a veteran-friendly campus,” said Buller, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering systems. “Everybody’s out here supporting their veterans. I’ve never seen anything negative on the veterans. It’s always support, and there’s really a huge veteran population out here, too.”

Graduating with his mother was definitely unplanned, Buller said. He knew she was attending school at ASU but had no idea as to when she would graduate. 

“I honestly, deep down think I kind of motivated her to push it a little bit further,” he said. “I think she really hunkered down and started studying more when she saw that she was within the same time window of graduating.”

Buller is grateful but still seems surprised about the whole thing and hasn’t had much time to take it all in as he juggles finals and job interviews.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Buller said. “Walking down the same aisle for the stole ceremony, and then potentially walking down our commencement. Yeah, that’s my mom.”

As Buller’s mom completes her current academic journey, she has some words of wisdom for others considering higher education.

“It’s never too late,” said Blanchard. “Don’t give up on your dreams.”

Top photo: Air Force Sgt. Barbara Blanchard and her son, Marine Corps Sgt. Rodney Buller, before at the Spring 2017 Veterans Honor Stole Ceremony at ASU Gammage on Saturday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Military honor stole ceremony kicks off grad week at ASU


May 5, 2017

An event to honor military veterans that started with just 10 participants in the university club in 2011 has grown to the point that it will be held for the first time in Grady Gammage auditorium here Saturday at 10 a.m.

Over 215 of the more than 650 student veterans graduating this semester are expected to attend the Arizona State University Veterans Honor Stole Ceremony, which will feature keynote remarks from Tempe Vice Mayor and Army veteran Robin Arredondo-Savage. Arizona State University student and Army veteran Timothy Rogers Arizona State University student and Army veteran Timothy Rogers is one of over 650 military affiliated students graduating in the Spring 2017 semester. Rogers served in the Army for eight years as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter mechanic and crew chief. (Courtesy photo) Download Full Image

“This particular ceremony is unique and stands apart from others because of the specific military theme, allowing us to include elements that are specific to this group,” said Martha Byrd, executive director of operations for the ASU Alumni Association. “Each graduating student receives a stole during the ceremony from one of the alumni who served in the same branch of service.”

There are five different honor stoles with the symbol and colors associated with each of the military branches — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.  The stoles can be worn over academic regalia during graduation ceremonies.  

One of the graduating students attending the stole ceremony is Army veteran Timothy Rogers, who is double majoring in social work and public service and public policy from the College of Public Service and Community Solutions on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“I am crazy happy to finish my undergrad,” said Rogers, a Gilbert native. “It has been an insane ride. So, I am very happy to graduate and move on to grad school, where my school schedule will slow down a bit.”

Rogers started his academic journey in the Maricopa Community Colleges system and for a time was attending both ASU and Rio Salado College.

“I finished 120 credits in 22 months and was able to maintain a 4.0 in everything,” he said.

A former UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter mechanic and crew chief, Rogers served in the Army for eight years mostly on active duty. He was based in various places throughout the U.S. and Europe, serving in several major military operations, including Operation Joint Guard, which was a mission to support the Dayton Peace Accords calling for the stabilization of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

The honor stole ceremony represents ASU’s commitment to veterans and national defense, one that has contributed to the growth of a diverse student veteran population of nearly 5,500 women and men who’ve served in all service branches and supported a wide range of military missions on behalf of the nation.  

“I think it is an awesome tradition that ASU and the Pat Tillman Veterans Center honor veterans with this ceremony and I am looking forward to it,” Rogers said. “I think I am just as excited if not more for it as the actual graduation.”

ASU’s veteran community also consists of over 1,000 current and former military family members enrolled in classes throughout all university campuses and ASU Online.

The Veterans Honor Stole Ceremony is a signature event of the ASU Alumni Association in partnership with the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and in coordination with ASU’s University Ceremonies Office.

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer, Media Relations and Strategic Communications