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A Matter of Degrees: UNH to Graduate Mother and Daughter

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
May 19, 2010

Vickie Cote Lee, left, and her daughter, Meredith Lee, will both receive bachelor degrees at Saturday’s commencement.

Vicki Cote Lee took her first college class when her youngest daughter, Meredith Lee, was 18 months old. On Saturday, May 22, when UNH issues diplomas during its 140th commencement, the Lees will be there to accept theirs. Together.

Meredith Lee, a classic major, will receive a Bachelor of Arts. Cote Lee is wrapping up a Bachelor of Science in family studies. And while Meredith Lee is heading to Brown in June to begin a one-year master’s program in urban education policy, her mother is ready for a break.

After that first course, Cote Lee, 50, had to put her education on hold. She resumed classes again in 1998 when Meredith Lee was 10, completing an associate’s degree in business administration five years later, all the while working full-time. Then, in 2006, Cote Lee got a job at UNH Manchester and began pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

That same year, her daughter, Megan, graduated from UNH and then when on to Harvard, and, in the fall, Meredith Lee began her own college career. (Cote Lee’s son Chris is a 2003 UNH grad).

 “Both girls and I would de-stress with chai lattes at Panera, or chat online about our classes. We often read each other's papers and made editorial comments,” says Cote Lee, of Newmarket.

Meredith Lee, 21, remembers the earlier years, at the kitchen table doing 5th grade math while her mother was studying macro economics.

“I thought it was good, that she was going to school, too,” the Dover resident says. “Now, to me, it’s a little more exciting that she’s graduating because she’s had to work at it longer. Also, I didn’t do it while raising three kids and working a full-time job.”

 “The only bad thing is she’s in HHS (College of Health and Human Services) and I’m in COLA (College of Liberal Arts) so we won’t be able to sit together,” Meredith Lee continues. “But it’s convenient because we can have one big party.”

Cote Lee had briefly thought about waiting a while before starting on her BA to give her daughter her own space in which to shine.

“But she’s so far beyond me (academically), I figured it would be okay,” Cote Lee says.

Meredith Lee is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Gamma Kappa Alpha, the National Italian Honor Society.

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