December 9, 2015 1:12 PM

Mary Polley Zeigler, admission data specialist at Millikin University, is completing a journey this winter that has led to becoming the 2015 Outstanding PACE Graduate.

Joining Millikin's PACE program in 2009, Zeigler, this year, is earning her Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership graduating summa cum laude and a member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society.

PACE is Millikin's accelerated bachelor's degree program designed for adult learners who want to earn a degree while maintaining their commitment to their current job and family.

"I was really excited to learn that I was the outstanding graduate because it's an honor that is voted on by your peers," said Zeigler.

The PACE program accepts nominations for the Outstanding Graduate based on their scholastic and leadership abilities, community involvement and having overcome obstacles. "We ask for the nominations from faculty, staff and other students, and I think Mary's story is a good example of what adult students have to go through to get to their final goal," said Gail Crookshank, director of PACE.

In her nominations, people praised Zeigler's leadership abilities, willingness to work with classmates to help bring them along, strong motivational skills, and perseverance to overcome a major health obstacle midway through her journey.

Zeigler was forced to miss a year when inflammation of the aortic valve was discovered in her heart requiring valve replacement surgery in 2010. She returned after a year away from the program and excelled, making her the perfect candidate for the outstanding graduate award.

In reference to the PACE program, Zeigler said, "Anybody that wants to continue their education should look at the program. Millikin has support systems on campus to help students throughout the program and I think anyone can be successful if they're determined, it's a great program."

Click here to read more about Zeigler's journey in an article from the Herald & Review.