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Father and Daughter to Graduate Together From Cal State Fullerton
78 year-old dad in women's studies, daughter in communications

May 24, 2006 :: No. 255

If you ask Rod Hutchinson, age 78, what it's like to be the only man in many of his women's studies classes, he'll smile and give you a one-word answer: "Heaven."

On Saturday, May 27, the La Habra resident will cross the stage at Cal State Fullerton to celebrate earning a bachelor's degree in women's studies. This year, only eight students will receive degrees in this major. Rod is one of them — and the only male in the group. As if that isn't exciting enough for the retired meat supervisor, his daughter, Kathleen Hutchinson, 35, of San Clemente, will join him Saturday, wearing her own cap and gown. Kathleen is earning her bachelor's degree in communications.

So what prompted the father's late interest in women's studies?

He claims it was a way to better understand how women have been discriminated against and how to support them.

"For years, women have been treated badly," he says. "My mother was a role model for the ‘Cult of Domesticity.' I began reading more about how women have been treated through the centuries, and I didn't like what I was reading. I wanted to learn more about that … and to make up for some of my sexist behavior when I was young."

Rod returned to school upon retirement when he decided he wanted to spend the rest of his days "reading and playing the piano." A friend recommended that he take a class in music appreciation at Cerritos College. So he did. That was followed by a course in music theory. While he was there, he figured he might as well take a few classes in English lit. Then a couple of history classes. Before he knew it, Rod was on his way to earning his bachelor's degree.

"I originally planned to major in history," he says. (It became his minor.) "Then I took a class in women's studies called ‘Women and History,' and I was so interested that I wanted to learn more."

Rod's newfound appreciation for higher education encouraged his daughter, Kathleen, to try to finish her courses more quickly so they could graduate at the same time. In fact, they even took a class together.

"I don't know if that was the best idea because we're both so competitive," says Kathleen. "We each wanted to outdo the other."

"On the first test, I got a 99, and Kathy got a 98," he says with a smile. "It almost killed her."

Rod got his comeuppance on the second test, however, when daughter bested father. They discovered that Rod liked to sit in the front, Kathleen in the back. They commiserated over term papers and finals and offered one another a "shoulder to cry on" when things weren't going as well as they'd hoped. Both say that attending classes at Cal State Fullerton has helped their relationship. Before going off to their respective evening classes, they would often meet for dinner.

"It gave us a good excuse to get together," Kathleen admits.

Both became active with their respective colleges. Rod got involved in the Women's Studies Student Association, helping out with fundraisers and awareness activities. Likewise, Kathleen was active in the Public Relations Student Society of America. However, unlike her father, Kathleen is not retired. She works full time for a real estate company, following a number of years at the Department of Defense. She would like, someday, to return to work at the DOD.

Although Kathleen should, by rights, be graduating with her classmates in the College of Communications on Sunday, she's decided that she would rather participate in ceremonies with her father.

"My dad checked with the faculty in women's studies and asked if I could participate in their graduation ceremony even though I am a communications major," says Kathleen. "They were very open to the idea, so it looks like I will be the ninth person to cross the stage with that group." 

Their commencement exercise in the Ruby Gerontology Center's Mackey Auditorium is scheduled to begin at about 9:45 a.m., following the university's 8 a.m. main ceremony Saturday.

Rod, meanwhile, looks like he won't be getting back to playing the piano any time soon. He's applied to return to Cal State Fullerton as a graduate student — this time focusing on American studies.

Media Contact: Valerie Orleans, Public Affairs at 657-278-4540 or

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Rod and Kathleen Hutchinson

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