Like many University of Dallas graduate students, Pat and Judy Hooker, CPM ’26, sit down throughout the week to listen to lectures and participate in class discussions both remotely and on the Irving campus. When they aren’t in classes, they read, do their homework and prepare for the next week. For many students, these tasks are solitary, sitting through online courses in a quiet room at home and perhaps doing their homework at a desk in the library.
However, for Pat and Judy, graduate school is a team sport. Pat Hooker and her daughter Judy have been working together toward the completion of their certificates in pastoral ministry from the Ann & Joe O. Neuhoff Institute for Ministry and Evangelization, taking both in-person and remote classes from their home in Garland.
Their journey to the Neuhoff program began when Pat felt the need to refresh and deepen her Catholic faith. She also wanted something that could accommodate her busy schedule as a caretaker and offer some courses online. Pat lives with her daughter Judy, a special needs learner who decided that she wanted to be part of the Neuhoff program with her mom.
They decided to schedule all their courses together. Initially, this was a way for Pat to support Judy. Pat was concerned about how the graduate program would handle an adult special needs learner like Judy. “A typical college or graduate course would be a huge challenge for Judy to do alone,” Pat said.
However, Pat has been amazed at how Judy has come to thrive and embrace the work of the University of Dallas, and they have both been surprised and pleased at how the university has embraced them.
“Judy loves the classes,” Pat said, “and she is always made to feel like an active participant in every course.”
The professors, Judy says, are always helpful and considerate without lowering their expectations. Pat says that in some other classrooms with special needs learners, “Professors pretend that the person isn’t there, and they do not want to call on or work with that person. That’s not the case here. They are so good, you would think they had special training for it.”
Judy’s favorite class so far is the Neuhoff course on Sacraments and the Eucharist. Pat says that Old Testament was likely the hardest course, given the rigorous reading schedule. They still schedule all their classes together for mutual encouragement so they can spend time studying together. Pat now relies heavily on Judy for tracking their homework and other assignments. “She has to remind me when things are due and when to sign up for courses!”
Still, they both say that they could not have made it this far without Lucy Gutierrez-Olvera, MTS, enrollment manager and instructor at the Neuhoff Institute who advises them on course selection and registration.
Gutierrez-Olvera calls the Hooker family a unique testament to the love between a mother and a daughter.
“It fills my heart with joy to see them persevere through this program,” she said.
She added that there are many unique stories behind each Neuhoff certificate. Students range from recent college graduates looking for a professional certification to octogenarians who want to deepen their faith in retirement.
In Pat and Judy’s online courses, they sit together at the same computer to keep each other focused. In their on-campus classes, though, they prefer to sit on opposite ends of the room. “She’s on her own!” says Pat. They generally do all their homework together. When not in class, Pat and Judy are actively involved in their local parish, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where Judy sings in the choir.
The certificate is an exciting accomplishment for both Pat and Judy, and one that is very important to them both. Even so, they both plan to continue classes at the university after they finish the certificate to keep learning.
“We love learning more about our faith just for the sake of knowing it,” Judy said. “And I know we can ask any question at any time.”
Joe Toates is a Dallas native and freelance writer currently earning his master’s in humanities with a concentration in classical education in the Braniff Graduate School. He studied history at Hillsdale College and currently serves as an educator in Detroit, Michigan. He enjoys reading, writing and helping his students do the same.
About the Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization
The University of Dallas Ann & Joe O. Neuhoff Institute for Ministry and Evangelization fosters personal growth, professional ministry and transformative service to the Catholic Church, the broader Christian community and the world. Continuing education courses taught by nationally recognized faculty are conveniently offered online, onsite and in satellite locations in both English and Spanish. For more information, visit udallas.edu/ministry.
About the University of Dallas
The University of Dallas is the premier Catholic liberal arts university in the country, known for its rigorous undergraduate Core Curriculum and robust graduate and professional programs in business, ministry, education and the humanities. According to national rankings, the University of Dallas has one of America’s most challenging, comprehensive undergraduate interdisciplinary programs, offered at an excellent value to some of the happiest students in the country. With campuses in Texas and Italy, UD stands apart as a thriving community of learners committed to an education that forms students intellectually, socially and spiritually for a life well-lived. For more information, visit udallas.edu.