New York City native June Casey remembers driving past Palm Beach Atlantic University during family road trips to and from Key West when her four children were young.
“I just had a good feeling every time I would pass here,” said Casey, now a grandmother who lives in suburban West Palm Beach.
Now she’ll have even more reason to feel good whenever she goes by the downtown campus. On Saturday, Casey will not only receive a Master of Science degree in counseling psychology from PBA, but at age 75, she also will become the oldest student to graduate from Palm Beach Atlantic.
She will receive her degree during commencement at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
Casey, who previously served as director of community affairs for New York City’s Office of the Ombudsman under Mayor Edward Koch and who later ran her own catering company, now serves as a mental health counselor at the Royal Palm Beach campus of Christ Fellowship.
She completed her undergraduate studies in psychology and fine arts at the City University of New York. Over the years, she has been a calming presence for family and friends during difficult times.
“I dream of easing the heartaches of those in crisis through the words of Jesus,” Casey said.
Casey herself is familiar with heartaches. She came from a broken home and spent her childhood years growing up in a Catholic group home.
At age 14, she was assigned to work in the institution’s infirmary, where she counseled newcomers who were having trouble adjusting to their new living situation.
“I have been counseling ever since,” she recalls.
When she was 19, she married Edward Casey, a Korean War veteran who had been a sergeant and a medic. When his untimely death left her a single mother, she enrolled in college at age 36. She took her three sons and her daughter with her to class during the day and worked at night, she said.
However, she still found time to do volunteer work alongside her children, mentoring at-risk youth and encouraging them to continue their education, she said.
She also managed to spend time with her other passion — art. She enjoys drawing, painting and sculpture, and she holds an associate’s degree in history and interpretation of art from the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.
She said being at PBA has brought back fond memories of her days at the College of Staten Island. She said her PBA professors have become friends as well as teachers and mentors.
When she first enrolled at PBA, Casey said she was a bit uneasy with the technology. “I had to buy a computer and a cell phone,” she said.
But her professors were helpful and understanding through her computer challenges, even late at night, she said.
“I do honestly believe it’s the Holy Spirit,” Casey said. “I just leave it to the Lord, and He just surprises me at every turn.”