From Tragedy to Triumph


TwylerThis August, Twyler Earl sat in the first class of her Doctor of Education in Administration and Leadership class. Only a year prior, she didn’t know if she’d make it through the night.

“I was walking the street and got hit by a truck,” Earl explained. “When I woke up in the ICU at OU Medical Center, I was told that I had two collapsed lungs, a broken sternum, and broken ribs. It was only after a comprehensive evaluation that I learned I had suffered more than 10 fractures and/or breaks from neck to ankle.”

After a major surgery on her femur, which was broken in three places, she said she knew that  a long stay in the hospital and an even longer journey of recovery was ahead of her.

Even with her health at a critical point, Earl understood that her sense of meaning was bigger than her suffering. Earl said, “After going through something as traumatic as that and surviving it, I felt like God was telling me, ‘I have more for you to do.’”

Although married now, Twyler was a single parent of two for more than 10 years, and her education had been placed on the back burner as she tended to their needs and the demands of keeping a household running. Still, her desire for more learning, more credentials, persisted. 

“I had always thought I was going to go back to my doctorate, but I kept putting it off,” she explained.

Those worries went deeper than financing the degree. Like many adult students, Earl said her hesitation stemmed from beginning a second career after 40 and concerns flooded her mind about finding time for coursework while working a full-time job.

Sometimes, however, we get a sign we can’t ignore, along with persistent nudges. “While in the hospital, my son visited me, and he questioned what I thought God had in store for me,” Earl said. “He told me God was working in the waiting.” 

"God was working in the waiting."

Nearly a year after her accident, she visited her son in New York City, and he insisted that there was no reason to wait anymore. Now was the time. 

When she reminded him of her fears about being too old, he said, “No mama, if anyone can do it, it is you. You’re never too old. It’s never too late to go back, and [my brother and I] will be the ones there when you finish this.”

Still, she needed a few more holy nudges in the right direction, since Earl said her checklist for her ideal program seemed impossible.

She expressed her need for an educational setting that accommodated her recovery process, as well as one where it would be safe to “talk about my faith journey. I’m just not at a place in my life where I want to censor my conversations. I want to talk about what God did.”

Around that time, one of Earl’s friends shared on social media that she had enrolled in a doctoral program at SNU. When Earl reached out, her friend said, “SNU is where you’re supposed to be.”

That day, Earl contacted SNU and asked for more information, only to discover applications were due in less than a week!

“Little did I know that when God says, ‘It’s time,’ it’s time,” Earl said.

Applying was a seamless process; each of her letters of recommendation, transcripts, and other forms were submitted not only on time, but early. Receiving her acceptance letter was just another sign she was where she needed to be.

Reality didn’t settle in until the first night of class when Earl said she realized just how far she’d come. “I called my friend crying in my car because I never thought this part of the journey would happen,” Earl said, “much less after going through what I went through. I just never thought this would be possible.”

Now, Earl is three months into the program and feels she has found not only a university that meets her needs, but also a second family.

“Our class has a group chat going with daily affirmations, and support for each other. We share in celebrating the birth of children, grandchildren, and weddings, as well as mourn losses. It’s amazing."

Administration and Leadership EdD Cohort

Earl, pictured on the far right of the center row, with her classmates, program director, and course instructor.

Adult students at SNU take classes in cohorts, meaning the students begin and end the program as a group. When she graduates alongside her classmates, Earl said desires to be a Dean of Students and “help students line themselves up to where God wants them to be.”

After everything Earl has been through, and is still enduring, we are honored to have her at SNU and eager to see what she can accomplish regardless of age or injury.

“If God has brought me to this, I know that I am supposed to walk through it,” Earl said, “I can’t imagine what He’s up to in the next chapter of my life.”

To read more of Earl’s story, you can follow her blog.

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