College of West Anglia graduate conquers all to win Anglia Ruskin Student of the Year Award
In terms of things that could go wrong, it couldn't have got much worse for Cath Waddilove. First, she was told her chronically-ill husband was not going to live. Then her daughter ended up in critical care.
Somehow, Mrs Waddilove not only coped with caring for both as they battled to recover in hospital, and then at the family home in Northwold.
She also held down a degree course at the College of West Anglia, which has now honoured her with its Anglia Ruskin University Student of the Year Award, along with a first in her BA (Hons) Psychosocial Studies degree.
'It's been a roller coaster ride,' said Mrs Waddilove, 43, from Northwold, whose husband Chris was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia after she enrolled at college.
'I couldn't have done it without Janet Jones, my course director. She's been my surrrogate Mum - she's a surrogate mum to everybody.'
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Mr Waddilove began to recover - despite what doctors at one point predicted. Then the couple's daughter Katie, now 14, became ill.
'There were times when I'd go in sobbing 'I can't do it, I can't cope any more,' said Mrs Waddilove, whose husband, daughter and 10-year-old son Tom were among the congregation at St Nicholas Chapel, in King's Lynn, for the College of West Anglia's graduation ceremony on Saturday.
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Janet Jones said: 'I wasn't going to let Cath quit. She's been a wonderful student for three years. The way she's helped other people on the course has been tremendous.'
Bells rang out as graduates led by a civic procession paraded through Lynn to the great fisherman's church, where degrees were presented to 176 students.
Families and college staff packed the oak pews as the names were called out one by one, summoning graduates up to collect their scrolls from CoWA principal David Pomfret and Helen Valentine, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin.
Mr Pomfret said: 'This year, 176 students graduated from 17 different programmes and our students and staff should be extremely proud of their achievements.
'It is great to see so many of our students graduating with so much support from family, friends and employers.
'We wish our graduates every success as they progress to employment and further studies.'
University Centre manager Hilary Fisher said: 'Our students and staff should be very pleased with what they have achieved this year.
'The college strives to provide first class learning opportunities for our students and this is evident from the calibre of this year's graduates.'
Increasing numbers of students have studied for their degrees at CoWA since the college's partnership with Anglia Ruskin began 10 years ago.
Many of them are mature entrants, returning to education after having families or circumstances which prevented them going away to university as a teenager.