Karen Douglas-Raynor initially sought her MS in Leadership from Walden University because of the options for advancement it offers. Just one year into her degree program, it took on a greater meaning, when she was diagnosed with cancer. Now, the degree highlights her perseverance and the steadfast support of her husband.

As the deputy principal of Sandys Secondary Middle School in Bermuda, Douglas-Raynor was required to obtain her master’s degree before earning a reappointment to the position. When she returned to the classroom as a student after years as a professional, Douglas-Raynor was daunted, but her husband, G. Raymond Raynor, was there at every step to encourage her.

He started by setting up an office for her in their home, complete with a desk, new computer, and a reading area. Throughout the first year, he’d surprise her with fresh office supplies or written words of encouragement. Then, in October 2011, she was diagnosed with cancer. “I strongly considered dropping out,” Douglas-Raynor admits. “My husband insisted I stay in the program. He became my rock.”

Raynor did everything he could to support his wife and her studies, which included adjusting his schedules at work and at home. It didn’t matter if they were attending a treatment, a doctor’s visit, or simply studying at home—he was there. “He would sit in the lounge chair for hours, reading while I read my coursework. There were times when I would look at him fighting sleep, and he could smile and say, ‘You can do it. Keep going,’ ” she says.

In the hospital, her husband would distract Douglas-Raynor from the treatment by asking her to teach him lessons from her coursework. “This process greatly helped me,” she says. Repeating the information helped her learn it, making it easier to recall when she was writing an assignment or taking a new course. “A scholarly writer was born as a result,” she explains.

Focused on the Finish Line
With the support of her husband, Douglas-Raynor forged ahead, meeting her deadlines and completing her program requirements—all with high standards of excellence. “It was fitting that my husband handed me my diploma when it arrived,” she says. “His name belongs on the certificate next to mine. Without his support, there is no way I would have realized this achievement.”

Raynor was happily “blindsided,” he says, when his wife read her completed Above and Beyond Award nomination materials to him. Not only did she read her essay aloud, she shared it with their family and friends, who called to congratulate him. He is humble about the award. “When you love someone, you do anything within reason for them,” he says. “We were shocked by her diagnosis, but were determined it wouldn’t change how we feel about life. She wanted to get this degree so it would open up doors for her.” And that’s exactly what he helped her to do.

What are her goals now? Immediately, her goal is to regain her full health. But long term, she says, she’d like to become a principal. “I have always had a dream of heading my own school,” she says.

About the Award
The Above and Beyond Award is presented annually to a friend or family member of a graduating student whose support goes above and beyond the call of duty and makes it possible for the graduate to achieve her or his goal.

Read more about the Above and Beyond Award and past recipients.

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