graduate shaking President Rogers hand
Tiffany Eckert poses with her children, Myles, Berkeley and Marlee, at her BGSU graduation ceremony. (BGSU photo / Craig Bell)

Class of 2023: Gold Star wife and mom finds herself at BGSU

Tiffany Eckert completes career transition, keeps a promise by graduating college

The last time they ever spoke, Tiffany Eckert made a promise to her husband.

In May 2005, U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Andy Eckert called home while serving in Iraq, and the conversation veered to education. He always told Tiffany how smart she was, and no matter how long it took, he said that he wanted her to obtain a college degree one day. Tiffany agreed.

The next day, Sgt. Eckert was killed in action. At age 23, Tiffany Eckert became a widow with two young children.

She said she rose each day for her children, determined to give them a good life.

Now a mother of three, Eckert began having the same internal discussion as her two oldest children, Marlee and Myles, when they began to prepare for college and consider careers. Like her teenagers, she wasn’t sure what career path was best for her.

graduate smiling with three family members
Tiffany Eckert, right, shakes hands with BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers during Spring 2023 Commencement. (BGSU photo / Craig Bell)

So, in the fall of 2020, she made the move she had considered for years: She enrolled at Bowling Green State University, determined to honor the promise she made 15 years prior.

“They started to get ready to go college and it was like, ‘Well, who am I outside of being outside Andy’s widow and a speaker and a mom?’” she said. “My kids were older and I said, ‘Maybe now is the time.’ I had to find myself, and I came to BGSU and found myself.”

Three years later, Eckert is now a BGSU graduate, having earned a bachelor’s in Human Development and Family Studies

But the process of diving into college again wasn’t easy, she said. 

“For me, going back to college was difficult for a few reasons,” she said. “First, I didn’t believe I was as smart as Andy thought I was. I know he meant it, but I didn’t believe it because I had struggled in school my whole life.

“I also had a great job that I shouldn’t have had without a college degree and I was making great money. But I wasn’t happy and it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

gradate smiling with diploma
Tiffany Eckert said, "I came to BGSU and found myself” after graduating with a degree in human development and family studies. (BGSU photo / Craig Bell)

Eckert arrived on the BGSU campus unsure of what she wanted to do, but that changed after taking her first class in human development and family science. 

Beyond losing her husband at such a young age, she experienced childhood trauma that gave her a natural understanding of others who were experiencing a traumatic life situation.

As she learned more about family science, she believed she had found her path: Using her own trauma as a means of creating good in the world. 

“Instantly, I knew: This is what I’m supposed to do,” she said.

Conversely, the major connected with Eckert, said Dr. Laura Landry-Meyer, an associate professor in the BGSU Human Development and Family Science Department.

As a family scientist, Eckert has a genuine ability to connect with others who are going through dark times.  

"One of the things I adore about Tiffany is that she has this innate ability when interacting with others to use their strengths to empower them to be better,” Landry-Meyer said. “That’s what we do in our major, but she can see it with so much wisdom and experience than other people.

"Even if people are down and out completely, the fact that they’re looking at you eyeball to eyeball, that might be their strength. You can take that and go with it — and I think she had been there before."

gradute celebrating with hands raised
After obtaining her undergraduate degree from BGSU, Tiffany Eckert plans to continue at the University to pursue a Master of Public Administration. (BGSU photo / Craig Bell)

During her time at BGSU, Eckert served as a teaching assistant to Landry-Meyer and joined Sigma Kappa, becoming the sorority’s vice president of recruitment and vice president of values and standards.

Another family tie was found on campus as daughter Marlee began her journey at BGSU in August 2022. Eckert said her daughter had many options from which to choose, but decided BGSU was her best fit. The pair received scholarships from Folds of Honor, an organization that provides scholarships to families of service members killed or wounded in action.

Though she started as a non-traditional student, Tiffany Eckert said she always felt welcomed and encouraged to do her best at BGSU.

“This is an at-home campus: you walk on campus and you feel at home,” she said. “I’ve always felt comfortable here, and the fact that I’ve never felt uncomfortable here is half the success.

“I’ve always felt accepted by faculty, staff and peers here. Everyone made me feel welcome. I healed part of myself at BGSU that I didn’t know needed to be healed.”

Now that her undergraduate degree is complete, Eckert plans to continue at BGSU to pursue a Masters in Public Administration and will be interning this summer with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). 

With her promise fulfilled, she is ready to continue with a new chapter of her life. 

“I walked on campus for Andy, but walking across the stage was for myself,” Eckert said. “I know Andy meant what he said, but I believe it now. I am good enough and smart enough and I can do well.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | | 419-372-6349

Updated: 10/20/2023 10:57AM