When Deanna Roberston crossed the stage of Southeastern Louisiana University in May, she became the seventh sister in her family to graduate from the same university, continuing a legacy started by her parents.
Although Robertson initially considered another school, she chose Southeastern because of that family legacy.
“I couldn’t pass up the legacy of it all,” she said. “It had a really good psychology program and I had gotten a scholarship. I think just knowing I was in an atmosphere where my parents connected was nice. Being an African-American woman and honoring what my parents started motivated me to be really excellent.”
Robertson’s parents, Deborah and Eddie Ray Robertson, met in Pottle Auditorium on campus while studying music education at SLU. They got married in 1978 and finished out their music education degrees while living in the married student apartments.
Deborah, who raised her family in Ponchatoula, explained that she and her husband never pushed the girls to attend Southeastern.
“We always encouraged our daughters to get prepared educationally to pursue the dreams the Lord placed inside them,” Deborah said. “Their time at Southeastern helped accomplish that purpose. Now all seven have undergraduate degrees, Elizabeth, Stephanie and Michelle have master’s, and Elizabeth will complete her doctoral degree from Regent University in 2016. We are very proud of all of our daughters and their love and service to God and others. To God be the glory.”
For fifth daughter, 26-year-old Michelle Robertson, a foster care case manager for the Department of Children and Family Services in the New Orleans Region, the experience of attending college alongside her sisters was unforgettable.
“I loved being on campus with my older sisters,” Michelle said. “My freshman year, I was there with both Sarah and Cheryl and it made a huge difference. They showed me around and introduced me to certain people and places, such as favorite library spots and where to get free scantrons.
“For a short time we even worked together on campus,” Michelle said. “In return, when Melissa came to campus I made it a point to do the same thing and I think it’s made a huge difference in the initial year of college. On my off days I’ve had the chance to go and visit Deanna for lunch and see the new additions. I love and respect Southeastern and had a great college experience there.”
The second-oldest daughter in the family, Stephanie Robertson, 32, is a choral director at Ponchatoula High School.
Stephanie said she chose Southeastern because of its music department. She was drawn by the department’s friendly and welcoming environment, top-notch faculty and because “I felt at home there.”
“Another reason is that both of my parents earned degrees in music from Southeastern and I thought it would be neat to follow in their footsteps since I was going to school for music education,” Stephanie said.
For sixth daughter, Melissa Robertson, 24, SLU was not her first choice, but ended up being exactly what she needed to pursue her career path.
“I picked Southeastern because I knew there was no way my parents would let me go to my dream school at the time, which was all the way in California,” Melissa said. “It worked out because my dream career ended up changing, and being at Southeastern allowed me to explore other job paths for a person with my skill set. I’m going back in the fall for New Media and Animation.”
For fourth daughter in the family, Cheryl Robertson, 28, who serves as manager of RPZL salon in Manhattan, the business department at Southeastern was where she felt empowered to flourish as a young professional.
“Not only did I love the business department, but I seriously fell in love with the teachers. I really enjoyed that atmosphere once I was solely in that building for classes. I was so excited,” said Cheryl.
Elizabeth Hornsby, 33, the oldest of the Robertson daughters, said SLU was a great experience that eventually led to her job as an instructor in the Department of Languages and Communication at the university.
“I like the familiar feel of Southeastern,” she said. “My former professor actually hired me after I received my master’s degree. I also enjoy my students. From public speaking to gender communication, I love the opportunity to challenge my students to think outside the box, get outside their comfort zones and hopefully in the process inspire them to find their own voices.”
Deanna explained that the values her parents instilled in her growing up ended up serving her very well during her college years.
“One thing I learned from my parents was to do my studies with excellence,” Deanna said. “When I was an orientation leader, I was orientation leader of the year. I was really committed because that’s just how I was taught. I worked hard to keep my grades up and I made sure I was representing the school in a really positive way. I think the biggest lesson my parents taught me was to love God and to love people. It was very much sort of I could meet new people, join different organizations, be in school and be myself and who God wants me to be.”