COE Alum is Just One of The Many Generations of Teachers in Her Family to Graduate From Eastern
Photo from the Connection, an EMU Alumni Magazine, that was published in Fall of 1996. Phyllis Wilkerson (left), returns to campus with her mother, Eleanor Blough, and daughter, Jennifer Cebula. The women pictured represent three generations of teachers, all EMU grads, and Eleanor attended classes in Welch Hall (in background) during the 1930's.
By Rachel Renou, COE Grad Assistant | Published April 29, 2020
Glenn Orlando Blough might be a familiar name to those interested in the history of science education. Blough was a science professor at Eastern Michigan University’s old laboratory, the Lincoln School, in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. He traveled the nation and used his expertise as an editor for National Geographic. His experiences made him an extremely credible contributor to teacher education. He authored multiple children’s science books, and textbooks used for the methods of teaching elementary science. Blough was a founding member for the National Association of Science Teachers. He retired as a professor after many years at the University of Maryland.
When Blough was in high school he hadn’t considered higher education because it was not very common in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He viewed himself as an average student destined to continue in the trade that his father and brothers worked in. It wasn’t until a teacher saw a spark in Blough that others didn’t and expressed that to him, that he felt the confidence to step outside of his comfort zone. The teacher encouraged him to pursue his passions, and consider a career in education.
Blough’s legacy among science education built at Eastern left a big impact on his students pursuing similar aspirations. However, Blough’s most notable inspiration might as well have been within his own family. Blough, was the great uncle of current EMU COE adjunct lecturer, Phyllis Wilkerson. Wilkerson has been teaching classes such as EDPS 325 Lifespan at EMU for the past 11 years, but this is not her first experience at EMU. Wilkerson graduated from EMU with a bachelors in Education and later earned her masters in Consumer Economics. From there, she was a Home Economics/ Life Skills teacher at Romulus High School.
Wilkerson was inspired by the long history of EMU Alumni within her family that all started with Glenn Orlando Blough. Her grandmother (Winifred Welch Hobart) , great aunts, aunts, uncles, mother (Eleanor Hobart Blough), and father (Philip Blough) all attended Eastern Michigan University before her. Not only did her family pick Eastern, they all picked the field of education, creating a generational dedication to teaching. Wilkerson says that it is an honor to carry on the tradition. “My grandmother would be so proud and so would my great uncle. My parents were here during the depression which means so much that I can honor them and thank them for the opportunity for an education at Eastern. It has a reputation for being one of the best colleges for teachers for the United States. Teaching is an extraordinary profession, one for which I am thankful to be involved” (Wilkerson).
The family legacy at EMU has created many loving memories for the Blough/Hobart/Wilkerson family members. For example, when her mother was attending Eastern, so were her mother’s two sisters. In the 30’s, it was inappropriate for women living on campus to not have a chaperone. Therefore, Eleanor’s grandmother, Anna Ida Hobart, lived with the three girls while they attended college. Anna was also a retired teacher. She remembers hearing stories about the house they lived in on the corner of Cross Street, and still passes by it today.
Another memory close to Wilkerson’s heart is the memory of how her parents met. Eleanor Hobart Blough and Philip Blough were students at EMU when they met in the Mckenny Union. After graduation they got married, but Eleanor could no longer work for the same school system as her husband as it was not allowed at the time. In the trend of keeping tradition, Wilkerson’s husband, Al Wilkerson, is also an EMU COE graduate.
Lastly, the family tradition does not end with Phyllis Wilkerson. She had the opportunity to watch her daughter, Jennifer Cebula Ramirez, walk across Eastern’s graduation stage adding to the long list of EMU alumni. Ramirez graduated with a fine arts degree ready to begin a career of art education just like her many relatives before her. Her daughter, Catherine and her son-in-law Lance Mitchell, also have degrees from Eastern.
After Wilkerson retired from Romulus High School, she and husband Al found plenty of hobbies to fill their time. They enjoy traveling around the world and eating delicious food in places such as France, Ireland, and Scotland. Not only have they made their way around Europe, but Phyllis Wilkerson has traveled within the United States enough to say she's been to 48 out of the 50 states. Utah and Alaska are left on her list, but she looks forward to a girls trip with her daughters to Utah later this year. Of their most notable hobbies, Phyllis and Al Wilkerson own a tea room in Adrian, Michigan. They’ve enjoyed keeping the business running since 2012 and have been featured on shows such as Michigan Under the Radar, Live in the D, and featured in an article for Tea Time Magazine, a national publication.
Despite the long list of hobbies, Wilkerson couldn’t stay away from teaching for long. After returning to Eastern Michigan to teach at the College of Education 11 years ago, she feels even more connected with her family. She says she missed teaching, but mainly missed having fun and caring students. One of her favorite memories while she was teaching was watching her students grow up to be good parents. Wilkerson says “being a good parent is the most important role you can ever have.” She wanted to return to education where she could continue connecting with students, being a mentor and role model, and encouraging her students to excel. She will never forget how it took just one teacher to believe in her great uncle, Glenn Orlando Blough, who started a generation of teachers. She now hopes to inspire students to believe in themselves and pursue their passions as well.
About The College of Education at Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, The College of Education (COE) at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) continues to be one of the largest producers of educational personnel in the nation. The COE includes a comprehensive variety of programs at the bachelor, master and doctoral program level. Non-degree and certifications are also offered through the COE as well. The COE includes departments for teacher education, special education, and leadership & counseling. All of the professional education programs offered by EMU’s COE are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and are also approved by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The graduates the EMU produces are highly desired in the field, due to the strong reputation the COE has earned throughout their many established years. The COE has been recognized for its strong success rate by U.S. News and World Report’s: America’s Best Colleges.