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Thirst for Knowledge: Rosemarie and Tom Mitchell

The Master of Liberal Arts deepens one couple's decades-long commitment to learning.

Rosemarie and Tom Mitchell at their 2012 graduation from the Graham School's Master of Liberal Arts program.

Rosemarie and Tom Mitchell entered Graham’s Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) program in 2009—but their love of learning spans decades. The two met while completing their undergraduate degrees at Northeastern University. Rosemarie was an English major; Tom earned a business degree and was a sports columnist for the school paper. After graduating in 1961, they married, had four children, and went on to cofound an information technology business. Then, after nearly 30 years of working side by side—and with a devotion to education and literature still deep in their bones—the duo decided to embark on a new adventure together: the MLA.

The couple, who continued to oversee operations at their company throughout the program, were immediately drawn to the MLA’s flexible schedule, in which students can opt for full- or part-time classes and complete the degree at their own pace.

“The fact that you only need to take one course per quarter, I thought, ‘Definitely, I can do that,’” Rosemarie recalls. “The beauty is if you're working—and we were working long hours—it’s an incredibly user-friendly offering.”

Over the next three and a half years, Rosemarie and Tom found much more than flexibility at Graham. “You know the world that you tend to focus on?” Tom asks. “All of a sudden, it opens up.”

Attending each class together, Rosemarie and Tom dove headfirst into a diverse array of subjects (asteroids, Hamlet, Darwin); honed deep reading, writing, and research skills; and cultivated enduring relationships with professors and classmates alike.

“Once you start, there is a thirst within you for more,” Rosemarie and Tom agree. “We’re always looking for courses to take and books to read. The desire for new knowledge and understanding never ends," Rosemarie says.

Since graduating in 2012, Rosemarie and Tom’s profound commitment to learning—and support of learning communities—has only deepened. A passionate leader and volunteer, Rosemarie serves on the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Board of Trustees and has received numerous awards for her leadership, including the Galvin Award; the Keith and Freddie Pederson Distinguished Leadership Award; and the Stevie Award. Tom, a talented writer and avid researcher, published his memoir, New England Son, in 2013 and a collection of original poetry, Soul Tracks III, in 2020. His first novel, a crime thriller titled Operation Honey Pot, was published in October—and he’s already at work on a sequel.

Today, they continue their journey, taking courses through Graham’s open enrollment program and the University Club of Chicago, where they most recently completed “The Spirit of Capitalism.” For Rosemarie and Tom, the UChicago MLA introduced them to broadened horizons—and a new place to call home.

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Briana Shemroske

Website and Design Specialist

Briana Shemroske is the Website and Design Specialist with the Graham School.

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