John Barrett and his daughter, Megan, are all smiles following the May 23 commencement exercises in Georgian Court University, Lakewood, where John received a master’s degree and Megan earned a bachelor’s degree. Courtesy photos
John Barrett and his daughter, Megan, are all smiles following the May 23 commencement exercises in Georgian Court University, Lakewood, where John received a master’s degree and Megan earned a bachelor’s degree. Courtesy photos

Story by Lois Rogers | Correspondent

Georgian Court University’s sports field was crowded May 23 as the class of 2019, nearly 600 strong, assembled to receive their diplomas. Despite their vast number, Megan Barrett knew exactly where her dad was standing: almost directly behind her, two rows away among the candidates for master’s degrees.

The senior English and education major had been able to pinpoint the location of John Barrett when undergraduates such as herself and graduate students, including her dad, strode onto the field to the triumphant notes of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.

When she was called up to the stage to receive her bachelor’s diploma, he shot her a big, happy wave. Not too long after, she would be the one waving as her father was called up to receive his master’s degree in theology, fulfilling a key requirement in his preparation for the permanent diaconate.

Long before graduation day, father and daughter had become adept at connecting whenever both were on campus. The day after commencement, they reflected on how meaningful such opportunities were to them.

“I think it’s important to be close to your parents,” said Megan, 22. “I realize how lucky I was. A lot of my fellow students weren’t able to visit or meet up with their parents or go to dinner with them and talk regularly with them about what was going on.”

Classmates and friends “would say it was a great thing that they were going through this together,” she said. “He was a lot of fun to have around.”

Her father echoed those sentiments, saying he enjoyed the back and forth with his daughter throughout their four years at GCU, which he said, mirrored the closeness of their family life in general.

Longtime members of St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant, where he will serve after ordination to the diaconate in 2020, Barrett and his wife, Sherri, reside in Brick with Megan and her sisters, Bonnie, 20, and Kaitlyn,19, and Sherri’s 88-year-old mother, Mary Ellen Schmidt.

John Barrett, who holds an undergraduate degree in accounting from Queens College in New York and is the owner and operator of P.M. Consultants, LLC, a municipal staffing firm for key professionals, smiled as he told of how amazed he is at the turn of events that led him to study for a master’s degree at GCU at the same time his daughter was earning her bachelor’s degree. “My father went to law school at night when he was 45. He wanted to delve deeply into the law,” Barrett said.

Very active in parish life, at just about the same age, Barrett felt called to delve deeply into his faith.

“The [diaconate] class I’m in is the first class of the new [diocesan] program started in 2015. We have completed four years and move into our fifth year this fall,” he said.

Throughout those four years, he and Megan developed a rare appreciation of their bond not only as father and daughter but as fellow students. “Sometimes when Megan was taking classes, we got to hang out together. Most of my classes were at night, and she’d stop by and wave.”

“We appreciated things like being able to return books to the library for each other. I really had proud moments when she won student elections,” he added. He praised his daughter’s accomplishments, which included serving as treasurer of the student government’s executive board as well as a peer mentor for emerging leaders and an orientation leader.

“I was able to watch her develop and prosper here on campus,” as well as during her student teaching in Brick Memorial High School, he said.

Megan, who plans to make a career in education, said she will always appreciate her father’s support during their four years at Georgian Court. Among the many examples she gave was that he “helped me get through religion classes, gave me a better understanding of faith, shared stories of his trip to Jerusalem with [Mercy Sister] Judith Schubert. Because of him, I was even able to bring some information back to my religion class.”

“It was a great positive, experience,” she said. “Not many people get to go to college with their fathers. If I had it to do all over, I would do it again.”