Denise Myers with her husband, Kevin
Personal Tragedies Part of Student's Strength, Motivation
Denise Myers has experienced sad events in her life that many people would not be able to imagine.
The outgoing and articulate woman who exudes happiness and confidence credits these challenges with strengthening her natural affinity for other people and creating an empathy she believes serves her well in her chosen career field of human resources.
Myers will graduate next month with a bachelor's degree in human resource development from the University of Arkansas, and she recently sat down to talk about her life and what brought her to this point.
"My mom committed suicide when I was 15," Myers began. "She struggled with depression and she had become an alcoholic. A big part of the reason she was depressed was because of financial difficulties, mainly because of her lack of education.
Denise Myers with her father, LeeRoy
"It was incredibly difficult after my mom died," she continued. "We moved in with my dad and we clung to each other," Myers said of herself and her three sisters. Their parents were divorced. "My stepmom was abusive so that made it hard, too. Now, my dad is very happily remarried."
Her father's positive attitude and Christian faith helped Myers through that difficult time and the one that was to occur 13 years later.
"Another tragedy in my family occurred in 1994, when an acquaintance of my family went into my dad's home and shot and killed my two youngest sisters and my brother-in-law, leaving their two small children orphans. The man shot my dad, too, but he lived through it."
The memories are painful to talk about, Myers said, but she would rather keep her story out in the open because it's about some of the people she loves most. She smiled as she recalled happy times they spent together shortly before that fateful day.
Myers and her younger sister remain very close and would like to write a book someday about their family.
Myers' mother told her daughters how important it was for them to get an education. Her depression resulted in part from the negative feelings she experienced because she was not educated, Myers said.
Doris and Gary Hall,
who were killed in
"I will be the first, and only, person in my family to have a four-year degree," Myers said. "Although my mom is no longer alive, it is still very important to me."
Since moving to Arkansas, Myers has worked in human resources at J.B. Hunt Transport for about a year. She moved to Arkansas to marry her high school sweetheart, Kevin Myers, a systems engineer with Zebra Technologies. Years earlier, she enlisted in the Army and worked in personnel administration, which she described as very similar to human resources.
"I have absolutely loved being in this program," she said about the bachelor's degree completion program based in the College of Education and Health Professions. "Phil has helped me so many times I can't even tell you. (Phil Gerke is coordinator of the Undergraduate HRD Student Center.) I really needed a program where I don't have to go to campus. I thought, seriously, can this really be? I have done other online and correspondence courses and this is so much better. The program is set up so that you can interact with other students and it feels like you are in class through chat rooms, group work and emailing each other."
Her husband and children – daughter Corrie and son Kevin – have been very supportive through the process, Myers said. Corrie attends NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, and Kevin will graduate next month from high school in Colorado, where he lives with his father. Myers works some on her assignments each weeknight and then completes whatever is left to be done on Sunday.
"Saturday is my day for fun," she said.
She makes dinner every night, and her husband does a large portion of the housework, including laundry, dishes and making breakfast on the weekends.
A naturally self-motivated person, Myers said serving in the military helped teach her focus and determination, all traits that have made her feel particularly well-suited for the human resource development program.
"It was a perfect match for me and I will miss it," she said. "I found a lot of people like me in the program. We're focused and motivated. We know what we want and we're serious about it. We've been out in the world and we know what it's like."
Myers is looking forward to new challenges in the human resources field.
"Because of the things that I have gone through, I may be more compassionate about helping people," she said. "HR is all about that. Even years and years ago in military personnel administration, I was geared toward services for other people."
"My core is family and relationships," Myers said. "I think I feel that way even more so because I know how quickly I can lose someone."
Sylvia, Denise and Eva Myers in 1991. Eva was killed when she was 21.