TIFTON - June 29 will be a special day for Barbara Pettiford, Florence Moffett and Linda Johnson. The three sisters, all educators, will receive doctorates from Nova Southeastern University, joining their brothers Robert, Willie and Grady Miles in holding doctorate degrees.

Their parents, the late Leroy and Florence Miles, encouraged their children to go to college even though they never had the chance themselves. Of a family of 10, seven teach or are administrators at South Georgia schools. Two others are retired teachers.

Moffett is director of personnel for the Berrien County School System. Pettiford was recently named vice principal at Eighth Street Middle School in Tifton. Johnson teaches at Ware County Middle School in Waycross.

Willie Miles is principal of J.T. Reddick Elementary School in Tifton, and Grady Miles is principal of Randolph County Elementary School in Cuthbert. Dorothy Roberts, Arthur Miles and Allen Miles teach in the Berrien, Thomas and Bibb county school systems, respectively.

Robert Miles is a retired professor of Fort Valley State University and Dorman Miles retired from the Thomas County schools after teaching for 20 years.

Growing up, the Miles children heard education discussed daily.

"It was just something that was instilled in us at a young age," said Moffett. "Father had to quit in the third grade, and Mother only went up through the eighth grade, so it was important to them and they pushed us along the way as long as they were here."

Both parents died in the 1980s, but they lived long enough to see all of their children graduate from college except for Johnson, the youngest. She lacked one quarter at the time of their mother's death.

"I will always remember on Mother's deathbed, she told us to make certain that Linda finish college," Moffett said.

Moffett has always believed God has a special purpose for her life, a belief that had its beginnings the day she was born. As a newborn, she was pronounced dead and placed in the morgue at Askew Memorial Hospital in Nashville. A nurse happened to notice that she was breathing again.

"It gives you chills," Moffett said. "I know I have a story to tell, and I believe God's purpose for me is to help and love all people. I'm doing exactly what I want to do in my career - helping people."

Moffett and Pettiford drove to Macon once a month for three years to earn their degrees through a long-distance plan with Nova Southeastern, spending every Saturday in class. Johnson began working on a two-year online program a year after her sisters got started.

Graduation day, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is "going to be a celebration," Moffett said, with a big family group joining in.

"It worked out because it was meant to be," said Moffett. "If you put God first in your life, anything is possible."

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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