An SJU Legacy Continues: Father and Daughter Graduate Together

Thursday, May 18, 2017

by Elizabeth Krotulis '17

Amanda Lawn ’17, an elementary education and special education double major, will dress in her cap and gown on commencement day to receive her diploma along with her fellow graduates — one of them being her father.

“This experience is so unique and I am so grateful to be able to share my day with my dad,” she says. “It's an honor to spend commencement with the man who has encouraged me to be my absolute best.”

Robert “Bob” J. Lawn Jr. ’17, of Pipersville, Pennsylvania, a Plumstead Township police officer, will graduate next to his daughter with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice.

“After a ‘rolling’ 28 years of continuing my postsecondary education I have accomplished my goal,” he says.

From a young age, Bob felt a calling to be a police officer. He began training for the force at 21 and has been in the profession for 25 years. He attributes his positive attitude and mission to care for others as driving forces in working what he calls his dream job, as well as the Catholic faith he was raised with and continues to follow.

The famiily's spiritual and academic legacy began at Saint Joseph’s when his father, Robert J. Lawn Sr. ’70 (B.A.) served as director of vocations on campus. Bob’s father, now deceased, became a Jesuit brother in 1954 and began working at Saint Joseph’s in 1962, where he helped establish a vocation office of the Jesuits’ Maryland Province in 1966. He took classes toward earning a degree in sociology with a minor in theology. He later left the Jesuit order and completed his education at SJU as a layperson.

Amanda’s student experience also features a strong connection to the University. In addition to being a leader of a Campus Ministry Koinonia Christian Life Community student group and participating in service trips with APEX, and, this summer, Collegiate Challenge, she has learned through her Jesuit education how to join her classmates, especially her dad, in serving others.

“I have someone who can connect to all of the values and experiences on campus in my family unit,” she says.

The two have supported each other in studying for their degrees and made time to cross paths on campus over the last four years.

“My father and I would plan to see each other weekly when I first started as a freshman,” Amanda says. “It was so nice to have him here to spend time with during my first year away from home. It made my transition so much easier.”

Amanda was even able to include her dad in her role as a SCHOLAR (Students Committed to Helping Others Learn about Autism Research and Support) at the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, where she provides one-on-one support to individuals with autism. Bob made an appearance as a guest speaker for a show-and-tell day, where he shared the duties of a police officer with Kinney learners and staff. He remembers the day as one of the most fulfilling memories he made at Saint Joseph’s.

Following graduation, Amanda hopes to substitute teach in Bucks County before securing a position as a special education teacher for elementary school students.

Bob, a member of Alpha Kappa Delta, the International Sociology Honor Society and Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society, will continue working as a police officer and look for ways to keep learning.

“The courses, professors and students were able to offer me a new grounding in how I interact with people in a society that is rapidly changing,” he says. “I feel great about graduating. I am truly blessed and proud to be graduating with Amanda.”

“Having my dad do his undergraduate work and graduate with me is the one of the best things I could ask for,” she adds. “I cannot wait to share the day with him.”

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