To the third degree ­ and more

To the third degree � and more These four members of the Al and Ellen Margheim family will don caps and gowns Saturday and receive degrees at USD's commencement. In back are Tyrell Margheim, Tim Margheim and J.C. Neilson. Seated is Sarah Margheim Neilson, J.C.'s wife. by David Lias Ellen and Al Margheim of Vermillion, like all parents, always hoped the best for their children.

They especially wanted them to grow into mature, productive adults.

What they never realized is how they all would reach that major milestone in their lives at the same time.

At Saturday's University of South Dakota commencement exercises that begin at 9:30 a.m. in the DakotaDome, the Margheims will watch their youngest, Tim, 21, graduate with a bachelor of science degree in physics and math.

He will graduate summa cum laude, with university honors.

Oh, and he's a member of Phi Beta Kappa, too.

They will watch their daughter, Sarah Margheim Neilson, 24, receive her bachelor of arts degree in communication disorders, and a minor in Spanish.

She, too, has earned the summa cum laude distinction.

The Vermillion couple will watch as their oldest son, Tyrel, 26, receives his masters of professional accountancy degree. He's a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the Business Honor Society.

The Margheims will also watch as their son-in-law, J.C. Neilson, who is married to Sarah, completes a major goal in his life.

He will receive his doctor of medicine degree. He graduates Saturday summa cum laude. J.C. is also a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, the National Medical Honor Society.

So much hard work.

So many signs of going above and beyond in one's studies.

There's so much more than signed diplomas that will be collected by Margheim family members Saturday.

Anyone who pays attention will realize that these four graduates likely were major contributors to their own success.

They demanded, and achieved, their own sense of personal excellence.

What's the secret?

Al and Ellen, for sure, played a part in this successful outcome. But they don't take the credit.

"It was God's providence that brought them all together in this way," Al said.

"God has definitely gifted them with unusual abilities," Ellen added.

"But aside from God," Al said, causing the Margheims' living room to be filled with laughter, "I'd mostly credit it to Ellen's efforts as their home school instructor."

Sarah remembers, too, how one special act � reading � made a difference for them all.

"You guys instilled a lot of reading in us at a very young age," she told her parents.

When the kids were young, Ellen often spent her evenings reading, of all things, the encyclopedia.

"The kids always saw how she was always learning," Al said.

He works as a computer programmer for First Financial Bank. Ellen works as an office administrator for a construction company.

"I think one of the things we did is let them know early on that they could teach themselves, that they could learn, that there wasn't much of anything that they couldn't read about to learn."

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"That's one of the secrets of home schooling," Al said. "First you teach your kids how to teach themselves, and then they do all the work."

Al and Ellen emphasized that there are many factors responsible for the success being experienced right now by their children.

The focus, Ellen said, shouldn't solely be on her and Al, or on home schooling.

"I consider all this their own accomplishments," she said.

Ty said he and his siblings weren't driven to excellence by trying to out-do each other.

"We're in such widely different fields," he said. "There really wasn't any common thing we were trying to compete for."

"They really are each other's biggest supporters and fans," Ellen said. "They are proud of each other and each other's accomplishments."

Anyone who spends some time with all of the Margheim siblings at home gets another sense of why they are so successful.

The house is constantly filled with laughter.

Sure, it takes serious, hard work to earn a university degree with such high honors.

All of that hasn't changed what, in essence, is another key to their success. They love life, they love each other.

And, they love to be silly at times.

Take the decorated cake Ellen ordered for the kids' reception Saturday afternoon in the Continuing Education Building.

It has no flowery sentiment.

"The message on the cake � instead of Congratulations," she said, "it says Finally."

It won't be long before the boisterous atmosphere in the Margheims' household will change. Sarah will be following her husband to Milwaukee Monday. J.C. will be starting a orthopedic surgical residency there.

Ty, accompanied by his wife, Amber, is currently hunting for jobs at accounting firms in cities throughout South Dakota.

Tim plans to continue his education this fall. He is applying to attend Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, TX.

He will also continue his consultant work in the field of computer multimedia.

"So much of my life has been focused on the kids, so I am expecting a bit of an adjustment," Ellen said.

Saturday won't be bittersweet for Al.

"I love my kids, and I am so eager to see them make their way into the world, and Saturday signals the beginning of that," he said. "I'm one of those fathers who looks forward to an empty house � but I love my kids.

"I think on Saturday, the pride I'm going to feel is going to overwhelm any other emotion," he said, "because I'm extremely proud of all three of my kids, and J.C."

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