Delayed, Not Denied
In her 40s, Lourdes Hanks fulfills her dream of a business degree
By Chad Osborne
Lourdes Hanks ’21 still has her Radford University admissions acceptance letter.
“I was so happy when I got it,” she says. “Because I knew there was a purpose for me to be at Radford.”
Lourdes grew up the second oldest of 10 children in Siguatepeque, Honduras, where, at age 8, she began working and dreaming of a business career. However, “there are many challenges growing up in a third-world country,” Lourdes says. “You don’t have access to books or computers. Everything is so hard, especially if you grow up in a very poor family. You have to create opportunities.”
When Hurricane Marco left parts of Honduras in ruins in 1996, Lourdes, at age 26, moved to Galax, Virginia, and began creating opportunities in her new home. And, when the factory where she worked for several years closed, she enrolled at a local community college. After completing her studies there, Lourdes applied to Radford University, thanks to the help and encouragement of a friend and Radford graduate, Leslie Hawes ’06, M.S. ’11, who soon thereafter would become her sister-in-law.
When Lourdes was accepted into Radford, “I felt my dream was still alive,” she says.
At age 44, Lourdes enrolled as a freshman in the fall of 2016. “I was so excited, but in the same way, I was so scared,” she admits. “I have dreams, but I also have fears.”
Fears like “fitting in with younger students,” she explains, and like the responsibilities of managing a full course load while, as a single mother, working and caring for a teenage daughter and son.
Through most of her four years at Radford, Lourdes worked part-time as a machine operator in Galax and attended classes throughout the day, driving an hour to Radford in a maroon Suzuki Grand Vitara that she has had for 12 years.
“It was very hard,” Lourdes says, “It was exhausting. My back hurt when I got home, and sometimes I didn’t feel like doing homework.”
But she did it; Lourdes graduated in the spring of 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Her children, Rachel and Ryan, inspired her, and she inspired them. They both want to attend Radford when it’s their turn for college. “Mom, I’m going to Radford, too,” Ryan tells her.
Davis College of Business and Economics faculty and the entire Radford community, she says, were also an inspiration and a tremendous ally.
“Sometimes, I was discouraged, and some young girls would just smile at me, and it made my day,” Lourdes recalls, wiping a happy tear from her eye. “Radford is one of the best schools ever. I always felt welcome and accepted there.”