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Mother of Four Kids Returns To Harvard

By Lori I. Diamond

Not all undergraduate mothers at Harvard are under 25. Suzanne Girlando '68-'96, had four children when she graduated Harvard at age 39. At that time, her youngest was only eight years old, and her oldest was a student at Boston University.

Girlando, who is now a self-described "stay-at-home mom," left Harvard in the middle of her sophomore year to get married in the '60s.

"I couldn't find myself," she says. "I wasn't ready. I was lost and confused. I wanted to study everything. I didn't know how to make choices."

She decided to return in 1993, encouraged by her husband, a college professor.

"He helped me realize how much I loved learning," she says.

"I was really happy to return to school," she says. "I really had to make the attempt to finish it at that time."

Girlando commuted to Harvard from Fitzburgh, Mass., where she lived with her husband and children. She traveled the 100-mile round trip to and from school each day either by train or by car, depending on the weather.

Because Girlando's husband was home for most of the day, she never had to use daycare.

"We tried not to put him into preschool," she says. "I'm not a fan of child care. I knew my son would be a lot better off in a home."

"It was kind of hard knowing I'd be away from him for so long," she says. "[But] I never worried about him. I never thought he was sitting in a corner lonely."

The Girlandos now live in Portland, Maine. With her studies complete, Girlando has more time to spend with her eight-year-old child and says she enjoys it so much that she drives him two hours a day to school.

"I now have an opportunity to give my son a lot of care," she says. "It's really nice to be able to be with him, sit down and hold him, and prepare lunches."

Although Girlando is focusing on being a mother right now, she is doing some research in aesthetics and film under one of her old Harvard professors, Vlada K. Petric, senior lecturer on Visual and Environmental Studies, who is in Europe.

Girlando says she is glad she decided to come back to school.

"In my case I wouldn't have done it any differently," she says. "I had unfinished business there."

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