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Virginia Tech mother and son both earn Ph.D.s this spring



Sharon Stidham, who received a Ph.D. in instructional design and technology from the School of Education, emerged from the north tunnel of Lane Stadium beaming and holding the Graduate School banner high as Virginia Tech's spring Graduate School Commencement ceremony began. As student marshal for the ceremony’s procession, she battled the afternoon breeze to keep the banner aloft while carrying her doctoral hood, and her smile never dimmed.

Her son, James Stidham, watched his mother with pride in the stands. James also earned a Ph.D. in condensed matter and material physics this spring. It is his third degree from the university, all of them in physics. He said he defended his dissertation too late to participate in commencement. Sharon Stidham defended her dissertation on March 21.

James celebrated another milestone in January 2020, when he married Samantha Spytek, whom he met during their first semester as first-year students in the physics department. They both earned master’s degrees, and she now teaches physics to high school students in Loudon County, Virginia.