Sunny Day News

When ambition turns into achievement, the satisfaction is sweet. Celebrating that achievement with your family, mentors and classmates makes the reward even better.

Amanda McCaffrey, 22, graduated from the Honors Program of Elizabethtown College.

Amanda McCaffrey, 22, graduated from the Honors Program of Elizabethtown College.

Amanda McCaffrey, 22, enjoyed that special feeling of accomplishment May 17 when she graduated from the Honors Program of Elizabethtown College with a bachelor of arts in sociology-anthropology, with a concentration in archaeology. Fifteen members of her family watched proudly as McCaffrey received her degree from the liberal arts college in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County.

“The whole week seemed surreal. My family, we’re a pretty close bunch. We all support each other in everything we do. So it’s not strange to think there were 15 people there for me,” said McCaffrey, who leaves Elizabethtown with minors in biology, history and international studies.

On hand at graduation were her parents, Kristin and Lance McCaffrey of Malaga, N.J., her younger brother, Ryan, three grandparents and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins.

“We are very proud of Amanda. She is a very driven young woman,” said her father, Lance. “It was a great weekend, and the four years went very quickly.”

Amanda’s mom, Kristin, had another reason to smile. She graduated from Elizabethtown College in 1988, making Amanda a proud legacy grad of “E-town,” as the school is known locally. Eight family members present for Amanda’s graduation were also on hand for Kristin’s ceremony 26 years ago.

Grandmother Doreen McCaffrey of Matawan, N.J., was filled with pride. “It was a beautiful ceremony, and everything went well,” said McCaffrey, who is impressed by Amanda’s ambition and enthusiasm. “She’s a good kid, a real nice young lady. Nothing is going to hold her back.”

In addition to her family cheering section, two memories from that day will stick with Amanda. They are the kind of moments that happen only at a small college such as Elizabethtown.

Amanda, with her proud parents, Kristin and Lance McCaffrey. Kristin graduated from E-town in 1988.

Amanda, with her proud parents, Kristin and Lance McCaffrey. Kristin graduated from E-town in 1988.

First, McCaffrey took part in an emotional procession that passed through the school’s faculty, who were dressed for commencement in impressive academic robes and graduation regalia. “We got to say our final goodbyes to our professors at that point,” she said.

Then, the president of the college, Carl J. Strikwerda, put an even bigger smile on McCaffrey’s face. He personally complimented her while conferring her degree. “I like your bling,” he said while handing off her diploma. “You’ll have to tell me what that all means when the ceremony is over.”

The president was referring to McCaffrey’s decorated gown, which was adorned with colorful cords, scarves and a medal to signify honors and programs in which she excelled during four busy years at E-town.

“It was a fun day, and it was a day to be proud of,” McCaffrey said.

She will take that pride, and her tireless ambition, straight into grad school. McCaffrey is already accepted into New York’s Binghamton University, where further accomplishments await. She will work this summer at a bank in south New Jersey, then she begins at Binghamton in August. The next targets on her educational journey include a master’s degree and, ultimately, a doctorate (Ph.D.), with a focus on biological anthropology.

Amanda, 22, with her grandmother Doreen McCaffrey, one of 15 family members who attended the ceremony.

Amanda, 22, with her grandmother Doreen McCaffrey, one of 15 family members who attended the ceremony.

“My goal would be – after getting my Ph.D. – I want to be doing research,” McCaffrey said. “But I’d like to be a professor some day. Whether that’s at a larger institution where I’m doing mostly research and less teaching, or if I were to be teaching classes at a school like E-town, I would enjoy all of that.”

Work-related travel is also high on McCaffrey’s list of goals. “I do know I want to spend time traveling,” said McCaffrey, who took study-related trips in college to Guatemala and Denmark. On the latter trip, she interned at the Museum of Copenhagen, helping clean, analyze and categorize skeletal remains unearthed during subway construction. It was her first field experience in forensic archaeology/anthropology.

“I really want a job where I have to travel, where I have to see the world, so I thought this was a good fit,” said McCaffrey, who hopes to make a research trip in grad school to Latin America, where she can use her diverse education and four semesters of Spanish. “The cultures there are absolutely fascinating.”

Her ambition will keep her moving. There’s no doubt McCaffrey is going places.

McCaffrey's graduation from Elizabethtown College was clearly a family affair.

McCaffrey's May 17 graduation from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania was clearly a family affair.