Abbotsford mother finds hope amidst tragedy

In memory of her son, Dorothy Peters completed a Masters degree at TWU this spring and has won a scholarship to Oxford University in the process.

Langley, British Columbia—Dorothy Peters' son, Matthew, would have graduated from Abbotsford Senior Secondary School in Abbotsford, B.C., with the rest of his classmates on June 13. But after a car accident claimed his life and the lives of two of his friends two and a half years ago, it is Dorothy who is graduating this year instead. Dorothy, who went back to school to engage her mind in something productive during the initial years of grieving, recently completed a Masters degree in Biblical Studies from Trinity Western University.

While the accomplishment is significant for a mother still grieving the loss of her son, even more inspiring are her plans for the fall. Dorothy will attend Oxford University on a full scholarship, awarded to her by the prestigious institute in England.

"In honour of Matthew, I decided to enroll in a masters program which offered biblical languages, something I had wanted to learn more about. My goal was to finish by the time he would have graduated from high school," says Dorothy. "And I've completed it with a few weeks to spare."

As Dorothy's healing process continues, so does her educational journey—leading her to places she never expected.

This May, Dorothy stood in Alumni Hall at Trinity Western University before a group of 20 people. There, Dorothy was grilled for an hour as she successfully defended her thesis on the theology of atonement in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Unnerving, perhaps, but the former teacher at Valley Christian School in Abbotsford was already accustomed to answering tough questions.

"In teaching high school Bible at a Christian school, the students would ask me a lot of questions. And 13 and 14 year olds can ask some very difficult questions," says Dorothy. "This prompted my desire to be able to read the Bible in its original languages."

"I knew that the best place to do this was Trinity Western because of the top-notch faculty in the biblical languages," says Dorothy, who decided to study Hebrew and Greek and adds that after coming to TWU, "I just sort of fell in love with the Dead Sea Scrolls."

As Dorothy soon learned, there is no better place to study the Dead Sea Scrolls than at TWU where world-renowned scrolls scholars Martin Abegg, PhD, and Peter Flint, PhD, are professors and part of TWU's Dead Sea Scrolls Institute.

"When I applied in January to go to Oxford, I had references from professors whose names are recognized worldwide and who are known by those at Oxford," says Dorothy. "That means something in the wider academic community."

But it was more than the praises of her professors that secured Dorothy a scholarship most only dream of earning. She was also interviewed by an Oxford representative at a conference in Denver, Colorado, and sent two of her academic papers to an Oxford committee for review before learning that she had been selected for a full tuition and accommodation scholarship—amounting to approximately $30,000.

"I'm very humbled and grateful," says Dorothy. "Much credit goes to the professors who taught me and mentored me.”

She also credits her classmates in helping her achieve this milestone, noting, “An individual cannot succeed in isolation. My success is also the success of the learning community of which I’m a part.”

This September, Dorothy and her husband will pack up their belongings and move to England where she plans to complete a one-year post-graduate program in Jewish studies and Hebrew. Their two grown sons, daughter, son-in-law and new granddaughter will remain in Abbotsford.

"It's a huge transition. We’re even selling our house," notes Dorothy, who plans to study Hebrew throughout the summer, and to get a jumpstart on her research for the coming year. She is also assisting Abegg on creating and compiling the official concordance for the Dead Sea Scrolls, which she says is a significant opportunity for a graduate student.

Dorothy's scholarship from Oxford is a fitting tribute to her son, who would have been 18 years old at the end of May.

"Matthew was a decathlete. He used to tell us that the 2008 Olympics were his Olympics. My husband and I would have loved to see him compete there," says Dorothy.

"From when I was young, studying at Oxford seemed like an impossible dream, one that I would never have had the courage to pursue,” she adds. “Oxford is to me just as the Olympics were to Matthew. When Matthew died, I decided to honour his life by trying to follow my dream. Somehow, I think that Matthew is cheering me on just as his dad and I would have cheered him on.”

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,000 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2007-09-26