When Eileen Behr of Lafayette Hill, Pa., started at La Salle University in 2000 to complete a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, she never dreamed that she would one day graduate with her daughter Mary Marguerite, who was only 13 at the time. However, at La Salle’s Commencement on Sunday, May 15, as Eileen walked across the stage to receive her diploma, she was immediately followed by her daughter, who earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education.
“The possibility of graduating together initially came about as a joke,” said Mary Marguerite, who goes by Mary Marg. “We knew my mom only had a few classes left, and although it seemed weird at first, I realized how unique of an experience it would be to share this with her.”
The graduation ceremony was just one part of a very busy and very rewarding month for the Behr family. On May 6, Eileen was sworn in as the first female Sheriff in Montgomery County, following an appointment by Governor Tom Corbett to complete the term of the late John P. Durante, who died while in office in 2010. She was also elected the Republican nominee for Montgomery County Sheriff for a new four-year term to begin next year.
Eileen began her career working as a police dispatcher at age 19, and she worked her way up to patrol officer and detective sergeant, before serving as Chief of Police of Whitemarsh Township. While working, she went to Montgomery County Community College, earned a paralegal certificate and attended the FBI National Academy in 2002, all while raising three kids—Mary Marg is the oldest, followed by Jim Jr. and Jessica.
“Education has always been important to me, and I’ve always encouraged my employees to go back to school, so I decided to take my own advice, and I enrolled at La Salle,” said Eileen. “I took one course at a time, and the experience was very humbling for me. The students in my classes were a variety of ages, all with different life experiences and struggles.”
For Mary Marg, her mother was not her only parent on campus, her father Jim is assistant director of security and safety at La Salle. “It was actually kind of neat to see my parents on campus,” she said. “I really thought I’d hate it at first, but it was nice to see a family member once in a while—especially if I needed money.”
Mary Marg’s friends also enjoyed having Eileen on campus. “One of my very good friends had classes with my mom, and many of my other friends wished they did!” said Mary Marg. In fact, for the Commencement ceremony, Mary Marg and her friends decorated Eileen’s graduation cap with “Congrats Mama Behr!”