Father, son earn business degrees at WBU together

PLAINVIEW – David Mojica Sr. and his son, David Jr., might have taken different paths in life for years, but their paths met at the same place Saturday when they shared the stage at Wayland Baptist University to receive their bachelor’s degrees.

While the Mojicas aren’t the first family members to graduate together in Wayland history, the fact that they share the same name and the same major makes their story a bit more unique. And since both came to the graduation stage via nontraditional means, the story begs telling.

Longtime residents of Plainview, David Sr. first enrolled at Wayland in 1996 under the tuition reimbursement program at his company, now Cargill Meat Solutions. After attending classes one at a time for three years, a promotion at the company made it hard for David to work out a class schedule and he quit going.

Nearly 10 years later, in 2005, a chance encounter sparked his interest once more.

“I was going through some files at home and came across some of my old school papers,” he said. “It was right around the time of registration, and I just decided then it was time to go back.”

Working as assistant manager in human resources at Cargill, David began adjusting his schedule to fit classes in, sometimes taking a late lunch to accommodate an afternoon class. With support from his company, who knew he was wrapping up the degree, he pressed on to finish, knowing it would benefit him in the future.

“If I wanted to grow within the company, the degree would be required,” he said. “I do want to grow and be challenged. But I also wanted to show myself that I can take on this type of challenge and succeed.”

About the time his father was starting Wayland, David Jr. was working and helping raise a young daughter, with school the furthest from his mind.

“My dad tried to give me the best example he could, but I was so rebellious, and I did everything the opposite,” David Jr. recalls with a smile to his father. Soon, however, his opinion would change.

“I was working and got laid off because of performance issues,” he continued. “I was raising my eight-year-old daughter and living with my parents, and my Dad gave me an ultimatum: either get a job or go to school. I had always wanted to go to college, but at the time I didn’t want to put in the effort.”

He enrolled in the fall of 2002 and went full-time from the start, eventually hiring on with the Wal-Mart Distribution Center where his weekend work schedule allowed him to continue classes. With an interest in business, David Jr. pressed on toward his goal with the support and encouragement of his family, his employers and a new wife. His stubborn side played into that as well.

“When I got my acceptance letter, I was telling my sister she’d better start saving for a graduation present,” he laughs. “A lot of people probably doubted that I’d finish, but I was always the type that would do anything in order to meet that goal and prove everyone wrong.”

During his five years full-time at Wayland, David Jr. was promoted to supervisor in the receiving area at Wal-Mart and later to area manager. He also got married, but said his wife was supportive though she knew much of his free time would be spent on homework and papers in order to complete the degree. He now has three daughters, ages 12, 9 and 6, and a stepdaughter, age 10. His father nodded in agreement, noting the same scenario at his home for the past few years.“It’s definitely an investment,” he notes. “But it’s all been worthwhile.”

Once the two were at Wayland together, they began having a few classes in common. Both are business majors – David Jr. earned the Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing and management, while David Sr. earned the Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education in business administration, focusing on human resource management – making the likelihood of shared classes increase. That caused some confusion for their professors.

“In one class, the professor only called our name once thinking the office had enrolled someone twice, so we had to explain that there really were two David Mojicas in the class,” said David Jr. The arrangement did make homework easier, they admitted, since they could work together.

It was toward the end of the Spring 2007 term that the pair discovered they would be finishing their degrees at the same time. Both were excited to share the day together, though it is hard to tell which David is more proud of the other.

“I’m always going to have respect for my dad, so to see him do something that I know he’s wanted for a long time is going to be a proud moment for me,” said David Jr., whose plans include an online master’s degree with Wayland and further advancement with Wal-Mart.

“I think I’m almost more proud to be the father of a graduate rather than being proud of myself,” David Sr. notes. “His capability and intelligence have always been there, so it’s good to see him using this and succeeding.”

Now 31 and 53, father and son have grown through some rough patches and have a close relationship. They share a love for Sunday afternoon barbecues where the atmosphere is laid back and they can just catch up on old times. And they coach a girls softball team for ages 12 and under, traveling often for games.

The school experience has seemed to bond them even more, and the matching diplomas serve as a reminder of the hard work they’ve both endured to get to that point.

“Not many people can say that they graduate with their father,” David Jr. said. “That’s pretty cool.”