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Great grandmother finally graduates university after starting degree 71 years ago

Rachel Lang

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Great grandmother finally graduates university after starting degree 71 years ago

Featured Image Credit: Northern Illinois University.

If Joyce DeFauw has learnt something in her 90 years on this planet, it's that sometimes life gives you the chance to finish off what you started.

That was certainly the case for her when she strode across the stage at Northern Illinois University to accept her degree 71 years after she took her first class.

Back in 1951, she was known as Joyce Viola Kane.

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She started her first year at Northern Illinois University with the goal of graduating with a degree in home economics.

But, life had other plans.

She fell a few semesters short of graduating, but in 2019 she returned with a new computer gifted to her by her family and her original black-and-white student ID issued in 1951.

Joyce's original student ID. Credit: Northern Illinois University.
Joyce's original student ID. Credit: Northern Illinois University.
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This time, Joyce was determined to strut across that stage and fling her cap tassel from one side to the other; a symbol of her graduate status.

"I guess I mentioned I was upset that I didn’t finish school and my children encouraged me to go back,” she told CNN.

So she re-enrolled, with her trusty new computer helping her make classes despite Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns from the safety of her retirement home.

When the pandemic hit, Joyce couldn’t leave her room.

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Retirement home staff brought her meals and she felt even more thankful for her computer because it gave her something to do.

Still, the isolation and struggles with her classes did get to her every now and then.

Joyce said there were a few times that she wanted to give it up all over again.

"I almost did [quit]," she said.

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Joyce, trying on her graduation garb. Credit: Northern Illinois University
Joyce, trying on her graduation garb. Credit: Northern Illinois University

"There were just too many people who knew about it," she said, as per a Northern Illinois University statement.

"I didn’t want to let them down.”

The great-grandmother revealed she is grateful that she had the chance to go back to school and finally get that degree she began all those years ago.

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"It’s nice to finish something you started," she said.

And her words of advice to anyone in a similar situation?

"Don’t give up. I know it can be difficult, but everything in life has its ups and downs," she said.

She crossed that stage on December 12, took hold of her Bachelor's degree in General Studies, and flipped that tassel.

Good for you, Joyce.

Topics: News, Education, US News, Good News

Rachel Lang
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