Very few of her friends knew that Elizabeth “Lyssa” McKee, a Friends University student majoring in biology, would be graduating with her Bachelor of Science degree this past Saturday at the age of 17. She entered Friends University as a 16-year-old junior.
According to Friends University records, she is the youngest person to graduate from the university in recent history.
Elizabeth has been academically ahead of her “birth age” since she was a toddler, and could count to 10 at 16 months old and was reading and writing at the age of 2. Her mother notes that one of her favorite activities is doing puzzles face down, with the “brown side” facing up.
Elizabeth graduated with two associate degrees from Colby Community College; one in pre-veterinary science and one in art. She had planned to enter the genetics field working with animals, but after her grandmother died after 32 years of living with multiple sclerosis, she knew her passion was in human genetics.
“We liked Friends because of the faith-based environment,” her mom said. “We knew moving her into the dorms would give her the opportunity to learn how to live on her own, preparing her for the future she had planned. She could always call us, but she was learning how to be on her own.”
Elizabeth has served as a lab assistant for Dr. Prince Agbedanu, assistant professor of biology and director of human biology and the health science program, and as secretary of the Friends University Health Sciences Club. She has volunteered in many service projects through Friends University and the community; volunteering regularly at Guadalupe Clinic, participating in the yearly Kidney Walk, Wichita’s Gingerbread House and spending hundreds of hours fundraising for non-profit Masonic organizations in Wichita.
She will be participating in the Friends University study abroad experience in Ghana, Africa next month, where she will be part of a student team that will learn about foreign health care systems and explore unique Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Elizabeth will be moving to Trondheim, Norway for the next phase of her studies; her master’s in molecular and cellular biology. She has been accepted as one of only 400 non-native students (from among 5,800 applicants) to study at NTNU: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the largest university in Norway. She then plans to earn her Ph.D., and possibly an M.D., in genetics in Norway or hopefully at Cornell University.
“She’s a very ambitious and motivated young woman,” her mom said. “We are very proud of her and can’t wait to see what all she will accomplish.”
Friends University’s 118th annual Commencement took place Saturday, May 12, at 2 p.m. at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita. Approximately 450 students graduated.
Friends University, a Christian University of Quaker heritage, equips students to honor God and serve others by integrating their intellectual, spiritual and professional lives.