Temple-Area Father and Daughter Graduate Together at Spring 2019 Commencement

Monday, May 20, 2019

Temple-Area Father and Daughter Graduate Together at Spring 2019 Commencement

Killeen, Texas – She was awarded the 2018 Teacher of the Year at KISD’s Willow Springs Elementary School in her fourth year as a full-time teacher, but as of Saturday, May 11, Jennifer Boehmker, 28, will have another accomplishment of which to be proud.

That evening, surrounded by classmates, friends, family and University officials, she will leave her seat, walk across the stage, shake the president’s hand, accept her diploma, and soberly take a seat on a small stool in front of the stage party to be officially ‘hooded’ by Assistant Professor Dr. Levi McClendon.

But, as special as that moment will be, there’s a reason why it will be even more memorable: Jennifer’s dad, Reese Davis, will be there, but not as another member of the family. That day, both father and daughter will don their graduation regalia, march in the processional to their seats, and receive their degree moments apart from each other, separated only by the alphabetical sequence of their last names.

Boehmker, who graduated from Belton High School in 2009, began her educational journey immediately after graduating high school, enrolling in Temple College and graduating in 2012.

She knew she wanted to work with children, but wasn’t sure about her direction until discovering the A&M-Central Texas teacher preparation program. Quickly after transferring in with her general education core courses completed, she began taking the junior level courses she’d need to earn her certificate as an EC-6, generalist.

To the layperson, that means her training is specifically designed to teach her the educational principals to teach any level of elementary school, from early childhood to sixth grade.

Married five years to Armor Officer CPT David Boehmker, U.S. Army, 19A Tanker, currently stationed at Ft. Stewart, Georgia, Jennifer remembers working her way through her education as a waitress at Applebee’s and a sales associate at JC Penney.

“It was worth every minute,” she says wistfully. “The teacher preparation program is truly spectacular. They start you out slowly, pair you with an individual child in a one-on-one setting, then, the more you learn and advance in the program, you are introduced to small groups with a student partner. Eventually, you’re doing your student teaching under a licensed teacher and then leading your own class.”

But it was there, she admitted, she sometimes heard things she didn’t want to hear as the little ones in her class would show signs of irritability, hunger, or emotional distress.

Jennifer’s dark brown eyes blink back the emotions she has learned to discipline, as she remembers one child who confessed to acting out, explaining that their family hadn’t eaten that day – or the day before. Or the one who confessed to being tired because, the child said, they hadn’t slept because of constant arguments between the parents.

“They see everything,” she said soberly. “And they hear everything. They see violence in their homes, in their neighborhoods, and for some, that’s all they know. For others, they struggle with deployments, homelessness, hunger, and even abuse.”

This is why, she explains, that she decided to augment her undergraduate degree, teaching certificate, and by then, four years of experience, enrolling in the A&M-Central Texas School Counseling Program.

It had been a colleague at Willow Springs Elementary School, Yolanda Jones, also a school counselor, who took note of Jennifer’s potential and encouraged her to pursue the program.

Jennifer’s dad, Reese Davis, 55, laughs when he thinks about Jennifer’s deliberate approach to her degrees. Not out of disrespect, of course, but because, he says, he’s taken a more leisurely approach, “cramming a his four-year degree into a mere 33 years.”

Tall, fit, hair blending into the light brown, close cropped, military grade haircut of one of Killeen’s finest, Davis has spent more than three decades in law enforcement,  attending the Central Texas College Law Enforcement Academy as well as six years on patrol, four training institutes including the FBI academy at Quantico, sixteen yeargrays in the Criminal Investigation Division, a promotion to sergeant, lieutenant, and captain, finally holding the official police department rank of commander.

With that many years under his belt, Davis has more memories than he could possibly share in one sitting, including the loss of colleague and friend, Chuck Dunwoody, a fellow bicycling enthusiast who, he says, could scoop up a nickel off the pavement while in a full out ride.

“He was truly amazing,” he remembers. “He had taught himself to ride and even attended a prestigious training academy to learn to ride as a law enforcement officer.”

Dunwoody, he laments, quietly lowering his voice as if once again touched by his absence, died in the line of fire during a narcotics raid, leaving behind a wife and family.

Davis could not have known it then, as he experienced Dunwoody’s loss, that he would one day take classes in the College of Arts and Science in a classroom named for fallen officer, Bobby Hornsby, also a good friend, who had died in the line of fire.

But it comforted him to be there. And there was the unexpected joy of discovering a love for the eclectic curriculum of the arts and sciences, especially the fine arts.

“The two best courses I took was a blues course and a course called, ‘The Artist on Film” taught by Professor Ryan Bayless. His hazel eyes sparkle mischievously as he describes his original motivation for such an esoteric line of study as a criminal justice major.

“I needed elective hours,” he explained, “so I went to see the advisor, Yvonne Immergoot, who helped me pick courses I had an interest in. I had always loved blues music and just loved that course.”

Along the way, he admits, he discovered an appreciation for Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, and Van Goh. Hardly the curriculum he thought of when he majored in law enforcement, but Davis wouldn’t take back a single day.

He did, in fact, enjoy the courses in fine arts so much that he was eligible to declare his undergraduate degree in liberal studies with a focus in criminal justice and theatre arts.

“We are all multi-faceted people, and in a lot of ways, we are what we do,” he pauses for a minute and continues. “But we are often a lot of other things. I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I have a love for the theatre and the arts. My classes at A&M-Central Texas allowed me to pursue that. It was the best of both worlds.”

And so, in less than three weeks, Davis, husband to Kathy Davis, a local attorney, and father to three children, will put on his cap and gown with his oldest daughter and bring 33 years of educational ambition to a close as he accepts his degree just moments after she receives hers.

“It’s perfect,” he said, smiling the inconquerable smile of someone who has spent more than two-thirds of his life chasing an education goal and now sees it it within reach.

Davis’ son, Benjamin, began his undergraduate degree at A&M in College Station last year, majoring in nuclear engineering.

“The kids take after their mom,” he said, laughing. “She’s the brainiac in the family. But we’re definitely an A&M family. We’re gonna prove that in a couple of weeks when we cross the stage together.”

Virtual Advisor