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River Club of Lakewood Ranch area family masters education

Father/daughter finish off master's degree in analytics in May at Georgia Tech.

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We all have stories about our children we tell at get-togethers and family gatherings.

I asked River Club's Scott Stevens what story he tells about his daughter Sarah, who now is 26. 

Sarah and Scott both received their master's degrees in analytics May 7 in a ceremony at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta. Although all their classes were online, the father and daughter often were on the same project teams and they took several of the courses simultaneously.

They earned As in all of them.

Jay Heater: Side of Ranch
Jay Heater: Side of Ranch

Scott described his daughter by saying she is outgoing, brilliant and organized.

But I wanted Scott to give me an example of what makes her tick.

He bought up "Titanic."

The story actually was about both Sarah and her sister Megan, who is 23. When they had just finished sixth and eighth grades, the two sisters started talking during the summer about how much they loved the movie "Titanic."

So they spent three days filming their own version of the movie, playing the roles themselves and sometimes grabbing whomever might be around to help out. They had costumes and sets and scripts. Scott was the main cameraman, but even he had a cameo appearance.

The final scene was shot in their pool.

"It ended up being 30 minutes long," Sarah said of their remake, which they still have on a DVD. "When I decide to do something, I'm all in."

And that was Scott's point.

That, actually, could be the family's slogan "We're all in," especially when it comes to education.

Scott has two masters degrees and his wife Karen has one. Both daughters have a master's degree.

Scott and Sarah Stevens celebrate their master's degree in analytics from Georgia Tech University.
Scott and Sarah Stevens celebrate their master's degree in analytics from Georgia Tech University.

They earned all of them at Georgia Tech. Karen, Sarah and Megan all have undergraduate degrees in industrial engineering. Scott's bachelor's degree is in mechanical engineering.

They are goal oriented, and they don't mind working extra hours to achieve those goals.

It was the spring of 2018 when Scott decided he needed to set a new goal. A data analyst for FCCI Insurance, where he has worked since 2012, Scott, now 54, wanted to improve his skill set.

"These new kids are sharp," he said of his co-workers. "I wanted to contribute more at work, so I had to retool."

By August of 2018, he was taking classes to earn his master's degree in analytics

Meanwhile, Sarah was working for Lockheed Martin, doing data analysis and working on the production of the F135 single-engine strike fighter in Fort Worth, Texas. She thought a master's in analytics made a lot of sense for her, too, so by January, 2019, she was her father's classmate.

It wasn't long before they found themselves on the same project teams.

"Projects can be interesting" Scott said. "You wonder, 'Will everyone carry their load?' I always grabbed her. She is organized and she stays on top of everything. Those classes were enjoyable. It is interesting the things you can share with your kids."

Sarah said she wanted her dad on her project team as well.

"He definitely puts in more work than I do," she said. "He's meticulous. and industrious."

Karen said her husband bordered on obsessive when earning his master's. Quite a few household chores needed to be put on hold.

Scott, an Air Force veteran who worked on missile guidance systems, took over Sarah's former bedroom and turned it into an office. He would disappear into the room and spend hours working toward his degree. All in.

Sarah was doing the same from Fort Worth, and she had other important things going on in her life as well, such as her marriage to Sam Spanjers. 

No matter how busy they were going to be, they both took the time to attend the live graduation ceremony, as did Megan, who works in health systems in Seattle, Washington, and Karen.

"It was cool to be together," Sarah said. "The four of us are close, and it's hard not being around each other."

Scott said he simply wanted to make the education experience real since the classes were all online.

After the ceremony, Scott pulled out a couple of bottles of André champagne. He reasoned it was smart to buy a cheap bottle of champagne because a lot of it would be thrown around in the celebration.

When they chugged a bit, Scott rued his decision.

The education continues.


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