JSU Alumna Encounters Three Near-Death Experiences
By Al Harris
JSU News Bureau
JACKSONVILLE -- January 30, 2001 -- A JSU alumna, whose college career was interrupted three times by near-death experiences, received her Ph.D. in English this past December from the University of Otago in New Zealand.
Dale Christine Benson, daughter of JSU criminal justice instructor Bob Benson, graduated from JSU in 1979 with a double major in French and English -- and a minor in Spanish -- with distinction and honors in both majors.
In 1978, Dale, the first student president of the International House, was diagnosed with epilepsy, which she overcame while holding a perfect grade point average.
Fluent in German, French, Spanish and Maori, she went on to teach language at a private school in New Zealand and began working toward a master's degree. But then Dale suffered a serious head injury in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. She spent the following three years learning to read, write and walk again. She continued her master's program and graduated in 1990.
The following year, she began her doctoral program. But in 1994, her academic pursuit was again called to a halt by another near-fatal tragedy: breast cancer. Dale underwent a radical surgical procedure, recovered, and continued her studies.
In 1998, just before she completed the program, she collapsed. Thinking she had the flu, she went to a doctor. Blood tests confirmed she had leukemia. Dale was given a week to live.
Her father, Bob, and her youngest sister, Elizabeth, flew to New Zealand to be tested as possible bone marrow donors. Elizabeth proved to be a perfect match, and Dale made a full recovery, with her middle sister, Susan, spending three months assisting her.
After getting the transplant from Elizabeth, who is not allergic to grass, Dale found that her own allergy had disappeared.
"It's a hell of a way to get rid of an allergy, but I love grass now," she says.
With graduation and the health trials behind her, Dale says she is "choosing to be happy." Graduation day was special -- it marked the end of a long road for Dale; and her husband, Brendan Murray, also received an MBA.
"If there's one thing I've learned, it's that nothing stands still. If I'm unhappy one day, I know that tomorrow things will be better. If I'm happy the next day, I know a week later I could have leukemia and die, so every moment counts."
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