Graduating Gary husband & wife have inspired each other

Married for nearly 15 years, Darrell and Leslie Robinson of Gary do most everything together. That practice will continue Sunday (5/22, 1:30 p.m.) when they graduate from Purdue University Calumet during Commencement Exercises at the Radisson Star Plaza Theater.

Darrell, who is blind, looks forward to receiving a master’s degree in mental health counseling and a certificate in addiction counseling. The 2002 Purdue Calumet baccalaureate degree alumnus in sociology and pastor of Tabernacle of Praise Ministries, Inc. in Gary wants to open a counseling center for people with disabilities.

Leslie is earning an associate degree in child development and humanities and plans to go on to gain a baccalaureate degree. She desires to become a social worker to assist children through the Department of Family Services system. Her passion for helping youngsters starts with her own family—four children, three grandchildren, two great grandchildren—and expands to the families of her church.

“Seeing all the families at church every week who are trying to hold it together makes me want to be in a better position to help them,” Leslie said.

Both Darrell and Leslie came to Purdue Calumet to resume a college education they had begun years earlier. Darrell’s return followed a 15-year interruption. Leslie originally enrolled at Purdue Calumet in 1981.      Though Darrell became totally blind at age 40, he said meeting Leslie and the inspiration and support she has provided has helped him adjust.

“She is so encouraging and is always by my side, but doesn’t enable,” Darrell said. “She lets me know I can do things on my own; if it wasn’t for her, I might not have followed through getting my degree.”

Kimberly Trajkovski, assistant director of Purdue Calumet’s Office of Disability Resources, said, “Some social service agencies tried to put him in a box, saying he could only do a very limited amount of things. They assumed that his disability translated into lower standards and less intelligence. He has greatly proved them wrong.”

Purdue Calumet also has attempted to be responsive to the needs of Darrell and other students with disabilities.

“My instructors were awesome and very accommodating,” he said. “I take my hat off to them.”

The responsibilities of marriage and raising a family prompted Leslie’s decision to leave Purdue Calumet during the early 1980s. Though she planned to return, a divorce and the demands of being a single mother kept her college plans on hold.  
It was after she met and married Darrell and saw his educational persistence that motivated her to return to Purdue Calumet.

“Darrell has been a great influence in my life,” Leslie said. “I figured if he can do it, I can do it.”

Trajkovski added, “They are a team in every sense of the word. You may not always see them together, but there is not a day that you talk to one of them that they don’t mention the other. The pressures of managing school, marriage, work and life can be quite trying, but they are committed to doing whatever it takes to make it work.”

While both attended Purdue Calumet, they understood and respected the time investment involved and didn’t let it get in the way of their relationship.

“Mondays were date day,” Leslie said. “We both reserved Mondays to spend time together.”

Trajkovski said, “No matter what setback they encountered, they always seemed to find something valuable to take from the experience.”

Both are excited to be graduating together and look forward to fulfilling their future dreams.

“I can’t wait to take pictures together while we are both wearing our caps and gowns,” Leslie said.