80-Year-Old Woman Makes History As University’s Oldest Graduate


80-Year-Old Woman Makes History As University's Oldest GraduateAlabama A&M University

An 80-year-old woman proved it’s never too late to make your dreams come true as she made history by becoming a university’s oldest ever graduate. 

Donzella Washington, from Los Angeles, decided to go back to school following the death of her beloved husband Jeff, to whom she had been married for nearly 50 years.


The 80-year-old gradually picked up social work and business classes at Lawson State Community College before transferring to Alabama A&M University, where she saw out the remainder of her education.

On December 6, Donzella stood alongside her younger classmates in a cap and gown as she celebrated finishing school with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Not only did she complete the course, but the determined woman achieved the magna cum laude recognition and achieved a 4.0 GPA in her final semester.

80-year-old becomes university's oldest graduateAlabama A&M University

Along with her academic accomplishments, Donzella’s graduation made the history books as she became the oldest graduate of Alabama A&M in its 144-year history, ABC News reports.

Speaking about her achievements, the 80-year-old said:

I want to inspire and motivate others that age is not a barrier. And I want to emphasise the life between the dash.


Donzella dedicated her degree to her late husband, who is said to have been one of her biggest supporters.

She added:

I wanted to finish in his honor.

80-Year-Old to Receive Degree at AAMU CommencementWhen the more than 400 Alabama A&M University undergraduate and…

Posted by Alabama A&M University on Thursday, December 5, 2019


Donzella’s daughter, Kimberly, described Jeff as her mother’s ‘number one fan’.

The proud daughter continued:

He supported everything she did, especially returning to school. Although my father did not have a traditional college education, he knew the value of gaining one.

I have seen her work tirelessly to achieve this dream and to finally be there to see her was a very proud moment.

80-year-old becomes university's oldest graduateAlabama A&M University

Before moving to Montgomery, Alabama, Donzella and her husband lived on a farm in Pixley, California, where they fostered about 30 children, including a group of six siblings who they took in during the 1970s so the family could stay together.

Kimberly admitted her mother was distraught when her husband died, saying:

The most challenging part has been consoling her when she was missing my father most… those moments when she cries and all I can do is hold her and love on her.

With a bachelor’s degree under her belt, the 80-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down and may even go on to get her master’s degree.

80-year-old becomes university's oldest graduateAlabama A&M University

In the meantime, however, Donzella hopes to provide volunteer service to places in need.

The 80-year-old is an incredible inspiration; congratulations, Donzella!

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected] 

Topics: Life, Alabama, graduation, Los Angeles, University


ABC News and 1 other
  1. ABC News

    This 80-year-old woman makes history as university's oldest graduate: ‘Age is not a barrier’

  2. Alabama A&M University


Emily Brown

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