Father And Daughter Set To Graduate College Together
Two Texas A&M University at Galveston students will have a graduation ceremony to remember Saturday when Marcus Wharton and his daughter Brianne receive their diplomas at the same time.
It was a visit to the Galveston campus that spurred Marcus’ decision to pursue a degree there at the age of 40. He’d been working on a business degree for a while, taking online classes from West Texas A&M University. But it was a biology course that captured his interest, reminding him of the love he’d always harbored for science.
So when Marcus and his wife took Brianne to the Galveston Campus for a prospective student visit, it was he who felt hooked.
“I had seen it in the ’90s and it just felt small and a bit rough,” Marcus remembers. “What a night-and-day difference almost 20 years made. We walked out of the Ocean & Coastal Sciences Building and I told my wife, ‘I don’t want a business degree. I want to study the ocean! This is where I belong.’”
Brianne, who had intended to study veterinary science, was sold. And so was Marcus.
“I had actually always wanted to be a marine biologist, but life had just kind of happened. I really thought this was the time to just do it,” he said.
In 2017, he made the switch from business to marine biology and became the newest member of the Aggie by the Sea family. Brianne joined him a year later after graduating from Friendswood High School.
Both Whartons majored in the Department of Foundational Sciences’ Oceans & One Health program. The flexible program was created to appeal to a wide range of science-based interests and to guide students into the medical, dental or veterinary fields, while also providing an interdisciplinary program and the ability to choose two minors.
The pair had multiple classes together, including coastal development and human health, biological chemistry and environmental chemistry. Having a nearby study buddy was seriously helpful, said Marcus.
“It was easier for me to get a hold of my daughter rather than just another classmate if I had questions,” he said.
Brianne said it helped both of them when they could prepare each other for a class, say if he was currently taking one she already had, and vice versa.
The ways in which they were able to support each other seemed to pay off. And then some.
The Next Wave
In April, Brianne was recognized as a 2021 winner of the Gathright Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior Award. The prestigious honor rewards the top junior in each of the academic colleges at Texas A&M based on scholastic achievement.
Brianne has chosen to continue her education and she will attend the MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School in fall to study biomedical science.
Marcus has elected to partner with Department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science Associate Professor Karl Kaiser on a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography this fall, focusing on microplastics and their effects on marine environments.
Having felt initially keenly aware of being a non-traditional Aggie by the Sea in a sea of young students, Marcus said he is proud to commit to finishing his doctoral degree “regardless of age.”
He really has just one complaint.
“The alphabet, you know? I’m an ‘M’ and she’s a ‘B,’ so I’ll be walking 15 steps behind her,” he said, joking about the graduation ceremony.
“I think it’s pretty cool (that we’ll be graduating) together,” Brianne said.
Marcus agreed, saying, “Not many people can say something like that. It is very cool.”