The Perz family legacy continues: Sally Anne Perz will graduate summer 2020

Sally Anne Perz follows her daughter’s footsteps as a UAB Blazer alumni.

PerfzFamily2The Perz family continues to light a path as UAB Blazers.Four months after her daughter, Leah Perz, completed her undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Sally Anne Perz will graduate with a master’s degree in English with a concentration in rhetoric and composition this Saturday, Aug. 15, via the UAB virtual commencement ceremony.

“I remember when Leah made a video for her application for resident assistant her second year of college; it had this profound impact on me,” Perz said. “She used clips of family pictures while telling about her life, with the song “Brave” by Sara Barailles in the background, and it was just incredibly inspiring. Leah was showing us how big her bravery was, and I was somehow empowered to follow my own dream.”

Perz said she kept thinking, “Maybe I can really do this someday soon.”

As a homeschooling mom of six who had not worked outside of the home since 1991, Perz was terrified to start her graduate school journey.

“A lot has changed since I got my bachelor’s degree,” Perz said. “I was afraid my age would be a hindrance. I was afraid that I couldn’t actually make a transition from home educator to student. UAB has changed all of that.”

Perz had always wanted to go to graduate school but homeschooling six children kept her busy.

“I knew I had less than a decade left teaching at home — and I thought, ‘I can do this! I can finish all of our schooling at the same time,’” Perz said. “Of course, every so often I also thought, ‘Am I crazy? It’s been two and a half decades since I graduated with my B.A.’ So, in my typical carpe diem fashion, I sent in my application to graduate school. I started at UAB in 2018, often playing ‘Brave’ back and forth to UAB on my commute.”

Perz was welcomed warmly and encouraged by her professors, Margaret Jay Jessee, Kerry Madden-Lunsford, Danny Siegel and Bruce McComiskey, and her thesis mentor, Professor Christopher Minnix.

Kerry Madden-Lunsford, MFA, associate professor and director of Creative Writing in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, says she had the good fortune to teach Sally and her daughter Leah in different semesters in the same year. 

“I was afraid my age would be a hindrance. I was afraid that I couldn’t actually make a transition from home educator to student. UAB has changed all of that.”

“I had Sally first, and I was blown away by her creative nonfiction and her story of survival from a devastating car accident,” Madden-Lunsford said. “The mother of six children, the strength in Sally’s words was filled with luminous and heartbreaking detail. Sally is pure courage with a wonderful sense of humor and fantastic ability to listen and create stories with tremendous empathy. Leah inherited her mother’s gift, and I felt so lucky to get to work with both of them. I hope one day this dynamic duo collaborates on a book of essays of mothers and daughters and what it means to be a family — not only to survive but to find such grace and joy in this one precious life.”

Margaret Jay Jessee, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the English Honors Program, said Perz taught her “at least as much as I taught her.” 

“Her unique perspective as a mother, grandmother and a home educator enriched our class discussions and expanded our understanding of each text we read together,” Jessee said. “I will miss her presence in my classrooms, but I am delighted to watch her successes in the future.”

Perz says that each new class, each new topic and each new professor taught her more and helped her grow as a graduate student.

“Sitting at their feet, hearing diverse theories and experiencing different methods of instruction helped me feel like I could really find a place in Academia, even at 50,” Perz said.

Although she was away from campus due to the novel coronavirus, Perz pushed through, made the necessary adjustments and with determination reached her goal.

Perz says that being home with so many people in the house also meant more work sometimes and more distractions from her own writing, but she often sits outside with their boxer puppies and writes — “This has helped me keep up my peace.

“I readily admit, I really miss being at UAB,” Perz said. “I miss talking to my professors in person, I miss the smiling Starbucks employees, I miss my little study spot. I had to jump through hoops to get what I needed for my thesis writing online; but I’ve loved it, too. I’ve loved to see people reach out in the community and check up on everyone.”

After graduation, Perz will begin teaching two English classes at UAB in the fall.