Wilmington University has named Kelly Pettyjohn of Georgetown as its very first distinguished alum.
Selected from among 60 finalists nominated for the award, Pettyjohn said she felt honored to be nominated, and it was a humbling experience.
Pettyjohn grew up an only child in Lewes, spending a lot of time at the beach. She said it was a very simple childhood, and there was not enough money for big family vacations. “My dad was a car salesman, and my mom was a lunch lady,” she said.
She had a really close group of childhood friends, she said, with whom she is still close today. She says that’s her thing, keeping a close circle of friends.
Pettyjohn said anybody could have been nominated for the award, so when she looked online to see the finalists, she was blown away to see her name on the list with people she did not feel she belonged with. “You see first responders and medical professionals and teachers, and everything, and you just feel completely honored you were the one to be chosen.”
Coming from a background of domestic violence and trauma, she said, she never felt worthy, but she was humbled to receive the award.
She said when she thinks back 25 years ago to now, she knows she has touched lives in the community, and even though she might not look in the mirror and see it, it’s still there and being reflected out into the world.
She said there was no physical award for being the inaugural distinguished alum because it was the first year they’ve ever given it. However, a story about her was published in Wilmington University’s catalog.
According to Wilmington University, because it was their 50th anniversary celebration, they chose 50 recipients to go along with the theme.
Pettyjohn received her associate degree in criminal justice from Delaware Technical Community College, her bachelor of science in behavioral science and her master’s in administration of justice from Wilmington University.
She is currently working toward achieving her doctorate degree in prevention science from Wilmington University.