Bath County educator completes remarkable journey by earning degree

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It’s been said that the some of the best things in life are worth waiting for. Willie Mae Jones (Class of 2021) believes that with her whole heart. 

At the age of 65 years young, she is the proud recipient of a bachelor’s degree from Morehead State University—an achievement 20 years in the making.  

“I’ve always been one of those people who are very highly motivated and very driven to achieve goals that I set for myself,” Jones said. “To receive that degree was unspeakable with how good I felt.” 

The journey began in 2001 when Jones enrolled at MSU in hopes of one day earning her degree in early childhood education. Jones’ initial pursuit of the degree was cut short due to the demands of work and being a single mother. But in 2011, after raising three children, she was determined to finish what she started. Along with a full-time job as director of Owingsville’s School Age Childcare Program, she commuted to campus for another 10 years—taking two or three classes at a time—until the Sharpsburg native finished her course work this spring and walked across the graduation stage. 

“I felt a great honor, not only for me, but for the education program at Morehead State University,” Jones said. “There were many people who went beyond what was required of them to give me the extra help that I needed.” 

Jones’ amazing achievement caught the attention of MSU President Dr. Jay Morgan, who singled her out during his remarks at 2021 Spring Commencement, saying that she “touched my heart with her inspiring story.” After detailing her educational journey, he then asked her to stand to be recognized, which was met with a resounding ovation from the crowd. 

Willie Mae, or “Miss Willie” as she’s affectionately known by both students and colleagues, has taught and cared for hundreds of children over the past three decades. Among those is her current boss, Dr. Sean Bailey (Class of 2008, 2012, 2017), the principal at Owingsville Elementary School, who spent five years under Jones’ tutelage.  

“I like to say that I’m a product of Miss Willie Mae,” Dr. Bailey said with a smile. “It means so much to look back and say, because of what she did, she laid the foundation for so many students, myself included. 

“It would be fair to say that Miss Willie is the face of our little school here. If you ask anybody who Miss Willie is, she’s automatically synonymous with Owingsville Elementary School. Many people may not know the school, but they know Miss Willie because she’s impacted so many lives.” 

“What I do on a daily basis is something that’s very passionate to my heart and that I really enjoy,” Jones added. “When I’m able to see growth and the children are succeeding, then I feel like I’ve made a difference. So, I really wanted to get the degree for what it was that I was doing.” 

With her degree in hand, Jones’ next goal is to be a lead teacher in a preschool classroom. 

“Just like my past has been, I’ll take one footstep at a time and I’ll see where the next one takes me. I feel like there will continue to be good things.” 

For more information about the Ernst & Sara Lane Volgenau College of Education, visit www.moreheadstate.edu/education.