View Full Version : Her graduation has a bittersweet flavor

05-27-03, 05:05 PM
By Michael Stetz

May 25, 2003

Law school is tough enough. But try throwing this into the mix: having a husband halfway around the world and at war.

Nicole Hudspeth can tell you all about it. Between tears, that is. She graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law yesterday, and there was just one thing missing from making it a moment of a lifetime.

Her husband, David, a Marine officer, is in Kuwait. He was not able to be a part of this most special of occasions.

He managed to get a call through on Thursday at 3 in the morning, to tell her: "Happy graduation."

It was only the fourth time they've spoken since January, when he was deployed to Iraq.

"I don't ever want to go through that again," said Hudspeth, 33, who is a Marine as well. "I'd rather go through war as one of the fighters than to ever have to go though one as a wife again."


Imagine trying to study, to listen to a lecture, to take an exam even to brush your teeth in the morning and not knowing.

Hudspeth did, somehow.

The Marine captain was one of nearly 350 students graduating from the law school yesterday. Today, the San Diego Catholic university graduates more than 1,600 students from the school's arts and sciences and other disciplines, such as the schools of business administration, education and nursing.

It would be a challenge, though, to find someone who went through what Hudspeth did these past months while earning her law degree.

Her husband is a weapons company commander with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion from Camp Pendleton. The only news Nicole Hudspeth got was through the pages of The San Diego Union-Tribune. The paper's military reporter, James Crawley, was embedded with the unit her husband, also a captain, commanded.

She found relief, she said, by helping others. She took over a support group made up of wives of the men serving with her husband.

Then there was school. School had its moments. She chaired a demanding law-school appellate court program, as well. Before going to law school, she served as an air defense operator. Now, she will become a military attorney or, specifically, a judge advocate.

At least she has a job.

More than a few of those graduating said it was a tight, competitive job market this year.

Dylan Malagrino, 25, another of the graduates, said he sent out hundreds of resumes and had yet to receive a job offer.

"I'm not alone. That's the case for many of my classmates," said Malagrino, one of the more active students. He coached youth swimming and basketball and taught human rights at Garfield High School.

This class also suffered tragedy. One of its members died recently in a diving accident.

This class saw much, noted Alice B. Hayes, the president of the university, who is retiring and is overseeing her last commencement.

This class lived through powerful world events, such as Sept. 11 and the subsequent battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, she said.

"You are witness to history and have an experience and understanding of the world that is different from that of previous generations," she said.

But that's not to say this event was a downer.

Optimism still reigned. Parents hugged their children. They pulled out cameras and camcorders.

Nicole Hudspeth's mother, Marty Jo Kulenic, came all the way from North Carolina to see the graduation.

On this day, she was a picture of joy pure joy.

"She's a toughie," she said of her daughter. "I'm proud of her."

Michael Stetz: (619) 542-4570; michael.stetz@uniontrib.com