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It's been decades since Merceda Larkin, 97-years-young, joined a group of parents over coffee to talk about education.But that's what she did Saturday, September 17 at the ASU Parents & Grandparents Coffee.Having recently moved to Arizona to be closer to family, Merceda accompanied her daughter and ASU alumna Ceda Austerman, hoping to learn more about ASU and meet more grandparents and others who value the importance of education.

"I've heard so much good about the family association from Ceda and I wanted to meet some of the people she talks about and learn more about how the organization helps students," Merceda says.

Ceda is a member of the SDFA board of advisors and mother of two ASU graduates —Caroline is a 2011 Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication grad and RJ is a 2008 College of Liberal Arts & Sciences School of Life Sciences alum. Both were in Barrett, the Honors College as well.

Ceda's involvement is not much of a surprise. Merceda was an involved parent as well, serving as president of the Parent Teachers Association and running the school's bookstore. Her participation diminished when Ceda left Kansas City, Mo., to attend ASU. "It was far from home and hard to keep up with things. Though, now, with a group like the Parent's Association, I probably would have stayed involved."

Involvement is a theme that runs through Merceda 's life. She was involved in politics for 21 years, working at the Missouri capital for the governor and lieutenant governor, among others. She believes being involved is one of the best ways to represent one's voice. "Today, it seems the first thing to cut when budgets are bad is education. That's absolutely terrible. We need to promote education and the importance of it. Being involved is one way to demonstrate its importance to the community and to the country," Merceda says.

Robin Okun Hengl, senior director of parent programs, appreciates Merceda 's philosophy. "We want all parents, grandparents and family members who are passionate about education to know they have a place with the family association. We welcome their involvement and commitment," says Robin.

"ASU has had a great reputation for many, many years," says Merceda . "It's a great university that is helping students shape their lives and our future. If there is a place where my involvement might be useful, I want to be able to contribute and keep that reputation going strong."

For ways you can contribute time or treasure to ASU, contact Robin Okun Hengl at


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