Beverly ShannonWhen Beverly Shannon graduated from high school, she could have chosen a simple, straightforward future: a degree from UCLA followed by a safe and satisfying career.

Instead, Beverly chose dancing, and as Robert Frost said in a famous poem about two roads diverging in a wood—choosing that less-traveled path made all the difference.

That’s because even without class lectures and written tests, Beverly’s time as a dancer gave her a valuable education, one that has served her well in a life interrupted by some unexpected and not always pleasant twists and turns.

Her years as a dancer…

No one told Beverly that life as a dancer would be easy, least of all her father, who danced in vaudeville. To pay the rent, Beverly did all kinds of work, often dancing at conventions or corporate events.

She experienced success, as well, and worked with a few very well-known stars. Among them—

  • Michael Jackson and The Jackson Brothers, with whom she worked as a dancer in film and video;
  • Stevie Wonder—as a dancer in video;
  • Eddie Rabbit—as a backup singer and dancer;
  • Harry Blackstone, Jr., for whom she both danced and worked as a magician’s assistant in national and international tours.

Beverly’s dancing career also fed her wanderlust, taking her to 40 out of the 50 states, as well as France, Germany, Japan and the Philippines.

Next…marriage and a “beautiful, smart and funny daughter”

After years on the road, Beverly’s career as a dancer ended when she got married and settled down. Beverly and her husband had a daughter named Clio, now a junior in high school—she’s been “a great joy” for Beverly.

Unfortunately, Beverly’s marriage ended suddenly after 15 years, leaving her with regrets and a lot of self doubt. Beverly says her years as a dancer helped her negotiate unexpected turn in her life.

“I had more success than many who attempt a career in the entertainment industry,” she says, “but many more of my auditions ended without getting the gig than those that did. Dancers have to learn to get back up after being knocked down, and I have always been a fighter.”

Picking herself up and moving on

After her divorce, Beverly had no clear idea of what to do with her future. She did have responsibility for half her daughter’s expenses, however, so earning money became her first priority. She took a job working for a chiropractor and did well in that position.

Best of all, thanks to the hours and location of her chiropractic job, Beverly was able to earn an Associates of Arts degree from the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois.

“No amount of toughness prepares a person for divorce,” Beverly says, “but working and going to school and doing well have been a big part of rebuilding my self-esteem.”

At the community college, Beverly’s fellow students and professors pushed her to see that she has a lot to offer.

The sum total of her life experiences have helped to make Beverly a skilled, loyal and trustworthy employee, adept at administrative duties, and capable of handling complex responsibilities.

“As a dancer,” she says, “I often had to think outside the box and respond quickly and decisively when things went south—which happens more often onstage and backstage than people might realize. Working well under pressure is a valuable skill in any career.”

A new goal leads to online classes at UIS

Beverly’s goal now is to become an executive assistant, and that goal led her to enroll in UIS’ online English degree program this past fall. She is grateful that she can pursue an English degree online.

As a people person, Beverly admits she has missed going to classes. “I was never shy about getting into the middle of a discussion. At times, online feels like twice the work and half the fun because I miss the back and forth between students and instructors.”

She adds, however, that the classes have definitely been worthwhile. “The benefit is being able to tailor the work to my schedule, and UIS provides one of the few online English majors available. It takes discipline and some getting used to, but I have ‘met’ wonderful students and professors in this medium as well.”

Beverly is excited about the future her UIS degree will help her achieve.

“Someone with my skills and abilities who is also EDUCATED, will be very valuable in the marketplace as an executive assistant,” she says. “I am hoping a Bachelor’s degree will pave the way for employment that will support me and help with my daughter’s dream of going to college.”

Majoring in English is a strategic choice. “The language, writing and critical thinking skills that have been inspired by my English classes and professors,” Beverly says, “will prove invaluable as an executive assistant.”

Beverly is putting herself through school, taking a few courses at a time. She hopes to finish her bachelor’s degree within three years so that she can be in a better position to help with Clio’s fast-approaching college expenses. “We’re starting college visits in a few months!” Beverly says.

Beverly is therefore extremely grateful to have received the Grace Brorstrom Oakley Scholarship, funded by Burks Oakley, II, in memory of his mother.

The Grace Brorstrom Oakley Scholarship

Dr. Burks Oakley, IIDuring her life, Grace Brorstrom Oakley dedicated much of her time to encouraging women and economically disadvantaged persons, and she herself established scholarships that continue to provide financial assistance to students.

Dr. Burks Oakley, II, established the Grace Brorstrom Oakley Scholarship at UIS in 1994. You can read more about Dr. Oakley and his mother in this post, A mother’s generosity inspires a memorial scholarship.

Beverly perfectly meets Dr. Oakley’s preferred recipient profile: She’s an online student, a single mother and has returned to college after being out of school for a period of time.

“I want to thank Dr. Oakley for the generous donation he has made to my higher education,” Beverly says. “You have not only helped me fulfill my dreams of continuing my education but have shown my daughter that if you are willing to put in the work, there are people you haven’t even met who are willing to help you succeed.”

A diverging road loops back aground

Back when Beverly finished high school and was presented with two diverging roads, she chose the less traveled one—a career in dancing. Now many years later, rich in experience and memories, she finds that her path has returned to that earlier option of a college degree and a satisfying career.

UIS’ online program has proved to be an excellent vehicle to carry her toward that chosen career.

Whatever happens—whatever additional twists the future still holds for Beverly—she makes this promise to Dr. Oakley: “I will do all in my power to make you proud.”


At UIS, anyone can make a gift that adds to the size of a scholarship award. We welcome your gift in any amount to the Grace Brorstrom Oakley Endowed Scholarship. Use the link to give safely online.