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Graduation truly family affair for father & daughter seminarians

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Like hundreds of other parents, Larry Cochran watched proudly as his daughter, Beth, walked across the stage to receive her master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in December.

But graduation day was extra-special for the Cochrans because just moments earlier, it had been Beth’s turn to watch proudly as her father walked across the same stage to receive his graduate diploma in theology from the seminary.

The Cochrans were among 315 graduates who received degrees during the Fort Worth commencement exercises at Travis Avenue Baptist Church Dec. 8. The graduates came from 30 states, one U.S. territory and 11 countries. The class included 37 graduates from other countries, the most in Southwestern’s history.

The Cochrans are believed to be the only father-daughter pair to graduate together from Southwestern. The dual graduation, they said, was no mere coincidence.

“Dad was going through his schedule and was like, ‘Hey, I could graduate in December 2000.’ Then as a joke I said if I really kill myself and take some I-terms then I could too,” said Beth, who received a master of arts in Christian education. “It was kind of an early Christmas present for him.”

That is when Larry targeted graduating with his daughter. He said it only makes sense they would graduate together, because they have had a pattern of togetherness for years.

“We’ve been close and done a lot of stuff. We always were doing things together when she was growing up,” said Larry, who pastors First Baptist Church of Lillian, Texas.

Although they had planned it for months, the Cochrans say the impact of graduating on the same day did not really hit them until they were putting on their graduation regalia.

“We’ll always remember this day because we did it together,” Beth said.

“There was a lot of pride that swelled up inside of me,” Larry said. “She’s been a very special part of my life.”

Patsy Cochran, mother and wife of the graduates, said she is grateful that God led her family to Southwestern from Tennessee.

“Needless to say, I am truly humbled by the Master’s touch and extremely proud of my husband and daughter,” she said.

At least for a while, the Cochrans will go their separate ways as Beth applies for missions work and Larry continues to minister at his church and begins work on a master’s degree at Southwestern.

The Cochrans were not the only family tandem to graduate. Husband and wife, Zbigniew Wierzchowski and Edyta Wierzchowska, will take their degrees and return to their native Poland where Zbigniew will serve as pastor of a Baptist church in an area south of Warsaw.

The two received bachelor’s degrees from the Baptist Seminary in Warsaw and felt led by God to further their education in America at Southwestern. Both earned master of divinity degrees with biblical languages at Southwestern. Zbigniew intends to do doctoral work at a seminary in Prague, Czech Republic.

Zbigniew is an artist and musician. His paintings hang in various offices at the seminary and are sold at the campus LifeWay bookstore. He recently released the first CD of his music.

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  • Adam Myrick