Mom's persistence to higher education inspires family to same

LUBBOCK – It is not uncommon for alma maters to run in the family, and Wayland Baptist University has had several multi-generational alumni in its storied history. Sometimes, it’s simply understood that a child will attend where his or her parents went.

But in some cases the connection is based on inspiration gained from one family member who passes down a love not only for education but also for the institution that provided it. Such is the story for one Lubbock family.

Doris Anita “Nita” Patton Key was raised in small West Texas towns, one of five children in a family that focused primarily on survival. A good student, she had dreams of education and college and spoke of that to her children often. She married in 1962 after high school, attended business college in Lubbock and worked for AT&T/Southwestern Bell. When her children came, she traded the work world for the role of mom, still instilling a hope of education in her daughter and son. When they started grade school, she started taking classes at Texas Tech, but soon a divorce meant the end to school and the return to the workforce.

“We had no car in 1978 and no money to pay bills or to buy food, so Mom went to back to work at the phone company making $114 a week,” said Lisa Patton Stane, her daughter. “Needless to say, things were tight, very tight. I went to work at the local Dairy Queen to help pay bills. College was the last thing our family had hopes of achieving; just eating day to day, keeping the lights on, and gas in the car (our $400 Ford Pinto) was our focus.”

Despite the struggle, Lisa said her Nita made sure her family trusted God and encouraged her children to work hard to survive. In the 1980s, Southwestern Bell introduced a college tuition reimbursement program, and Nita jumped at the chance to pursue her dream once more, enrolling at the Wayland Baptist University campus in Lubbock. She graduated in 1991 with her bachelor’s degree while working, earning honors.

In the meantime she remarried Dr. John Key, who encouraged his new wife to complete her education. She immediately enrolled in Wayland’s master’s program and earned the MBA in 1998.

While Nita had reached her dreams, she was still not done dreaming for her children. Though she had talked up college from their childhood, Lisa admitted a struggle when trying to refocus on education after entering the workforce herself at age 15 and admittedly “blowing off” most of high school.

“My high school counselor told me I was not ‘college material.’” Lisa recalled. “He said no college wanted me in 1983. I believed this since my academics had taken such a back seat to partying and working.”

Soon she enrolled in Texas Tech like her mother had, but found too many conflicts with the full-time job she needed and eventually dropped out. In 1989, she married Ernest Stane in Houston and the couple soon moved back to Lubbock to work for Southwestern Bell. Nearly immediately, Nita began talking up college and encouraging them to try the night classes at Wayland. They both enrolled in 1990.

Ernie finished his BSOE in 1995, the first in his family to earn a college degree, and by then had worked his way up to a promotion with SWBT. The Stanes moved to Austin soon after and he immediately enrolled in graduate programs to continue his education. A few years later, he had earned an MBA from St. Edwards and a master’s degree in telecommunications from University of Dallas.

Lisa, on the other hand, was only a few classes shy of her degree when they relocated, and she eventually began seeking some online classes that might transfer back to Wayland. In 1999, the growing family – which now included two sons, Chance and Chase – moved back to Lubbock and Lisa got her dream of finishing at WBU. She graduated in May 2000 still emphasizes the importance of education to her sons. She works with her mother managing the family business, Key Animal Clinic.

Lisa credits her husband’s education with helping him climb the career ladder and avoid layoffs over the years. But she really credits her mother’s persistence and passion for education in lighting a “forest fire” that has spread throughout her family. Even brother David has started his education at Wayland, and Nita keeps after him to finish as well. The family

“Nita’s far-away dream of a college degree became a reality for not just her, but many more,” Lisa writes. “We are grateful to Mom for never giving up the dream she had for us all and to Wayland for designing and pursuing a dream of providing college education opportunities for the working class of Lubbock.”