Jamaica: Father, two sons graduate university together

(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – If the family that prays together stays together, then something has to be said for the family that studies, and graduates, together.

Last weekend when 53-year-old Harven Burke, regional field officer at the Jamaica Observer, walked across the stage to receive his Master’s of Business Administration, his son Kemoi, 28, was right behind him.

What’s more, his younger son Kamol, 23, walked the very stage, not an hour before, receiving the award of Bachelor of Science in Operational Management.

“When I went up, Kemoi was behind me in the line. I heard the announcer say, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a special announcement. We have a father and son graduating today, and the place erupted. My knees felt weak; I couldn’t walk,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

As he spoke, the pride radiating from his ear-to-ear grin was hard to mistake.

“I was elated because not only was I graduating with my sons, but also because I finally went through with my master’s, after starting and stopping twice,” Burke said.

“Kudos to my wife. She was like a hand in mi back,” he said, laughing. “She has more confidence in me than I have in myself. Trust mi. Most of what I have achieved is through her.”

His wife is Dr Olivene Burke, executive director of Mona Social Services and adjunct lecturer of transformational leadership at the Mona School of Business and Management. Burke credits her for pushing everyone in the family to further their education. This year, the men jumped one hurdle, and very soon, the couple’s daughter Kaedi, who is a second-year medical science student, will do the same.

Kemoi, a promotions coordinator at CB Group, told Career & Education that neither he nor his dad knew the other was enrolling in the MBA programme. He applied and was accepted, but was planning to defer, he explained. He, however, changed his mind after assessing his career goals and realising that he would have to start now in order to meet the requirements for landing a CEO position in the future.

“When I saw my father at the orientation I was shocked. I said to him, ‘I didn’t know you were doing the programme’. There were discussions at home about studying for a master’s degree, but there was uncertainty as to when it would happen,” he shared.

They spent the next 27 months mostly in the same classes, studying the same content, poring over the same coursework, completing the same assignments.

It worked well, too, because when Kemoi had to miss classes as a result of travelling for work, for example, his father and other classmates would get him up to speed. Studying together also meant the father and son could explain things to each other at home.

As for the other young men in the class, the elder Burke said he became somewhat of a counsellor to them.

“In class, they called me godfather because most of the young guys became like my children. They would come to me for not only school-related things but personal issues, too, and I was able to give them some advice and hopefully guide them in the right direction,” he shared.

There were about 15 males in the class of about 50.

“I was an inspiration to them, and they to me because they taught me things, too. I was not au fait with all the digital and computerised technology and is dem teach mi. So we worked together. And if I didn’t understand something I’d go to them and ask for help. It’s not that I was totally daft or anything, but I wasn’t afraid to ask for help.

“It really was a golden experience. I never felt intimidated or out of place,” Burke added.

Kamol was on a job orientation on Friday and was unable to speak with Career & Education, but his father and brother told the newspaper that he was just as ecstatic as they were.

The elder Burke did his MBA emphasis in human resource and marketing, while Kemoi did it in marketing.

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