Editor’s Note: Despite the necessary adjustment to virtual instruction for part of this semester, more than 6,000 talented students will earn their degrees in May and move on to become the next generation of leaders in the Central Valley and beyond. While every hardworking graduate deserves to be recognized, for the rest of the semester we will be sharing the inspiring stories of graduates like this one who have achieved at the highest levels or have overcome remarkable challenges. As University President Joseph I. Castro previously announced, the University looks forward to celebrating all of its deserving graduates at an in-person ceremony at a later date when it is deemed safe to do so.

Angel Langridge is finally getting her bachelor’s degree in public relations after 19 years of college classes, including summer courses, and a four-year break when she couldn’t enroll because of a missed paperwork deadline.

Like other Fresno State graduates this year, Langridge was looking forward to walking the stage at the graduation ceremony for the College of Arts and Humanities and celebrating with family and friends. But the cancellation of May graduation ceremonies at Fresno State due to COVID-19 won’t diminish what has taken her so long to achieve.

“Of course I’m disappointed with how this year has ended, but not having a ceremony doesn’t change anything for me,” said Langridge, who is also a 20-year Fresno State employee. “That diploma is still going to go on the wall. Not having a ceremony doesn’t take away from what years of work has done.”

Langridge grew up in a family of educators. Her grandparents, Odell and Irene Johnson, moved from the Midwest to California during the Dust Bowl for a better life, and to live in a place where their 10 children, including Langridge’s father, Roland, could go to school while living at home. The City of Fresno and Fresno State fit the bill. At last count, Langridge said six family members have worked on campus and 19 have attended the University including her father.

Family members have gone on to become school principals, superintendents and college presidents. Langridge’s father got a job teaching, eventually becoming a principal and superintendent, in the Berkeley area where she grew up. Langridge wanted to study interior design at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Diego — not in San Francisco where her father preferred. She held off on going to college and got a job in banking instead.

Langridge later got married, had two sons and returned to Fresno where she got a job in 2000 clipping news articles in the University Communications office at Fresno State. She soon learned that employees could apply for a fee waiver and take up to two classes a semester for free. That’s when she started her journey to earn a degree.

“I had no idea what I was doing. I took a Spanish class, and I took this class and that class — whatever would work in my schedule,” Langridge said. “That’s when I started taking online classes so I could work on my computer at night with my kids, and I took a class during the day.”

In 2010, Langridge hit a snag. She missed the fee waiver deadline for her classes and was denied enrollment for the next four years because Fresno State became an impacted campus (and remains impacted) meaning the number of applicants is more than the number of available spaces for students. Then, Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro came along.

At a faculty and staff forum in 2014, Castro told the crowd, “You matter to me, you’re important,” Langridge said. She took that as a challenge and wrote him a letter about her situation. She got a phone call the next day from the registrar’s office and in spring 2015 she was back in class.

“I never missed a deadline after that,” Langridge said. “I am thankful and grateful for President Castro’s support. He has made it clear over the years that he wants to help others succeed in getting their degrees.”

Having a supportive supervisor who believed it was important for all employees to have an education was also big help over the years, Langridge said, along with a responsive adviser who was quick to answer questions and guide students through degree requirements.

During Langridge’s entire college career, she took only two classes a semester. In the past few years, she completed summer courses at Fresno City College that could count toward her degree. This path allowed Langridge to graduate debt free.

“I had a lot of big things happen to me along the way, including the death of my husband, but I knew I was always doing this for me,” Langridge said. “Every year as I was looking at my sheets — all the online checklists — and every time I checked things off, it was a huge weight off my shoulders. I could finally see the light and that I was getting things done.”

Dr. Tamyra Pierce, professor in the Media, Communications and Journalism Department has known Langridge for about a decade. They served together on University committees and worked together when Pierce took a temporary position as social media director in University Communications. Langridge was also a student in one of Pierce’s classes.

“I’ve known Angel for many years, and I have been amazed by her tenacious drive and determination to achieve her goals,” Pierce said. “I am so happy for her and proud of her for achieving this great honor. She is an inspiration to all.”