In Memoriam: Miriam Lynn Hoebeke Osborne

by James W. "Jim" Osborne

A diploma thirty-two years in the making.

Thirty-one years, eleven months after completing the requirements for her Master of Education degree, UVA’s Curry School of Education awarded Lynn Osborne’s diploma on August 14, 2016, bringing to a close – albeit bittersweet – a fifty-year educational odyssey.  How and why so much time passed is worth a few words.

Lynn Hoebeke was an “Army brat”, accustomed from birth, to changing guard stations regularly from town-to-town and country-to-country.  After her father’s tour of duty in Heidelberg and Munich, ended in 1955, the Hoebeke family returned to Washington. For the very first time, Lynn attended American “neighborhood” schools on American soil, in Falls Church, Virginia.  She was almost ready to graduate from JEB Stuart High, when her father retired from the US Army as a Full Colonel and accepted a civilian job in Bristol, Tennessee with Morrison Molded Products, an aspiring defense manufacturer. .  

After graduating Bristol, TN’s high school, in June 1962 Miriam Lynn Hoebeke enrolled in Michigan State University that fall, following her mother’s “Spartan” legacy.  During two years at Michigan State, Lynn steadily gained academic confidence and found doors were opening in the challenging worlds of English, creative writing and political science.   But her path changed course again.   She and her high school beau married during the summer after completing their sophomore year and so, Lynn uprooted herself again to join her new husband at UVA, where she continued to pursue her education on a part-time basis, regularly taking courses that broadened her educational horizons.  

After UVA, a hiatus of 5 years followed while Lynn’s family grew in size and moved almost annually, with “Army-like” frequency.  It was during this interlude that Lynn began to recognize and develop her own talents as a mother and teacher.  Innate skills surfaced: patience, inspiration, persistence, and loyal devotion to the learning process.  Bit-by-bit, her children, each one, flourished beneath her invisible Sheppard’s Wings.  She taught her first child to read at age 2.   She realized her knack for subtly inspiring all of her children to enjoy exploring worlds of learning through reading and traveling.  She tantalized all of her children by dangling reading bait, full of life.  But, Lynn herself never forgot the same lessons she spread out before her children.  Just as soon as her husband completed his graduate degree, she resumed her own education even while heading up a busy family of three active and precocious kids.  

From 1974 until 1982, Lynn pursued the remaining two years in order to complete her undergraduate degree at Hollins College, commuting from Lexington to classes for six years; when she could not find needed courses during that time at Hollins, she supplemented with night and summer courses at VMI, W&L, and Dabney Lancaster.  Meanwhile, she began to explore teaching opportunities.  She found enjoyment in teaching preschoolers in a neighbor’s “basement” housed kindergarten for 4 and 5-year old’s.  Preschool teaching aroused Lynn’s special gift for teaching younger students.  She plied her special love and natural aptitude for younger children to the little students in “The Seller’s School”.   Somehow, she adeptly moved from one ring to another and yet another - in one ring to deftly manage her family, in the second to pursue her own educational aspirations and reach her degree goal, and on a third ring, directing preschoolers with eye-twinkling inspiration.   Yes; just like under the Big Tent, a three-ring circus.   

Lynn Osborne - Hollins College.jpg

Photo: Lynn Osborne at Hollins College (Top Row, 5th from Left) with classmates. (Provided by the Osborne family.)

Lynn fashioned an excellent record and in 1982, finished her undergraduate degree majoring in creative writing at Hollins.  At Hollins Lynn found friends and earned the respect and admiration of her faculty, the faculty who came to know her sparkling wit, keen intellect and dedication to a real purpose.  But, by now, Lynn confidently knew what and where she wanted to land – in an elementary school as a teacher of young students.  Her Hollins degree, although rewarding to hold, did not satisfy the requirements that would enable her to attain the State of Virginia’s teaching certificate. 

After diligent investigation. collaboration and deliberation, she found and chose to pursue a graduate education degree at UVA’s Curry School.  She entered Curry in the fall of 1982.  For the next three years she continued to balance those three big jobs: leading her family of five, teaching preschool and pursuing a high-grade graduate education degree in the challenging environment at Curry.  Toward the end of her educational journey, when the light at the end of the tunnel was visible, she began searching for her first public school teaching job. 

She filled applications with several area elementary schools in Augusta, Alleghany and Rockbridge Counties.  Conditioned on the completion of her Curry degree requirements, the Lexington’s Lilburn-Downing Elementary School offered her a position teaching second grade beginning in the fall of 1985. 

At 40 years, Lynn would proudly begin her public teaching career.  

No one knows what happened – how or why - on the day of Lynn’s last final exam at Curry, July 10, 1985.  She finished her exam.  On the way home from Charlottesville, according to a witness in a car following her traveling on I-81, just south of Staunton, at Mint Spring, her car began to weave erratically, left the road, and crashed into an embankment in the median.  She lost her life almost immediately.  

She did not “Walk the Lawn”; she did not smile while receiving greetings from Curry’s Dean nor, while crossing the podium, shake hands with the President.  She did not receive her degree, did not proudly clutch her Curry School Master’s Diploma. 

No one thought about that.  Not then, in July 1985 – nor for many years to come.

When it finally did occur to her husband, to ask, “whatever happened to that degree, that diploma”, in a telephone conversation with one of the Alumni representatives, soon after his 50th UVA Reunion celebration, Curry’s response was polished, positive and prompt.  

Over the course of 31 years, many things have changed, worldwide and at UVA.  Many things in the “new order” are out of place.  Disarray synonymous with the stretching pains punctuated by rapid growth.  UVA’s heart; it’s mind; are still in tact. Its soul still glows warmly. As much, if not more so, at Curry.

Miriam Lynn Hoebeke Osborne’s Curry School Master of Education degree and her elegant diploma recognizing her accomplishments arrived just as it should have, on August 14 - in 2016, instead of 1985.  

Her family is very proud, and thankful for the memorial.