MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — May is graduation month at colleges around the state. There’s a story behind every one of those smiling students and their families, but few are quite like Janice Gladden’s.
Her husband, former Minnesota Twin Dan Gladden, watched his college sweetheart graduate 35 years after they first started at a junior college in California. Back then, she quit school to support him in the minors.
Graduation Day is special, especially at Augsburg College, which really embraces the pageantry. The family has been here before. Janice and Dan’s daughters, Ashley and Whitney, are both college graduates.
“You know when both of my kids walked and graduated, I wondered what that felt like,” said Janice Gladden. “This was something I needed to do. It was probably at the top of the bucket list for me.”
This time, Janice is walking at Augsburg College and the rest of her family is applauding. It’s appropriate, because her inspiration came when Whitney was going to Augsburg.
“It was my second year here and I actually told her one day … there’s a weekend college program here and maybe she should look into it,” Whitney said, “Sure enough, look where she is now.”
Janice started Junior College about 35 years ago, but she got sidetracked when she met and married the star of the school’s baseball team.
“She kind of put it on the back burner to follow my dad around, support him a little bit,” said Whitney, “And luckily that paid off.”
It paid off with two world championships and a long career for Dan. And Janice has had a long career in business, spending the last 19 years at Target Financial Services. But it wasn’t always that way.
“His very first contract was $550 a month, for the months of the season,” Janice said. “That was it.”
“As a minor league baseball player, you’re not making a lot of money,” Dan said. “I didn’t feel like living with four other guys and sharing the rent, so she sacrificed some schooling at the time.”
But for the last four years, Janice has been studying with Dan sacrificing. His dinner table became her study center.
“Seriously,” he said, “it looks like a college dorm in the kitchen, and in the TV room. She’s got like three computers up and she’s got homework every night. You’ve got to be quiet.”
Her hard work paid off. Janice graduated with honors in communications.
“Oh, I’m very proud of her,” Dan said. “It’s something I don’t know how to measure it, because it’s my wife, it’s not my daughters. So I think it is special.”
“I’m just so proud of her now,” Whitney said. “I know it’s something that she really, really wanted – and my grandpa really wanted for her – so it’s awesome.”
Now that she’s graduated, Janice plans to take a break for a year and then study for a masters. Dan is fine with that, as long as he doesn’t lose his dining room table again.
“I finished what I started,” Janice said. “It’s a very good feeling.”