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90-year-old college graduate great-grandmother 71 years after starting

A 90-year-old great-grandmother will remarkably graduate from university on Sunday, 71 years after starting her studies.

Joyce Defauw, then Joyce Viola Kane, enrolled at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in 1951, where she originally wanted to become a teacher, but changed her major to home economics. She had completed three years of college, but met a man in church who she said “stole my heart”, eventually married in 1955 and dropped out around the same time.

Joyce went on to have three children with her husband, Don Freeman Sr., sharing three years of marriage before his death.

After living as a widow for about five years, Joyce met her second husband, Roy DeFauw, having six children and two sets of twins together. Since then, she has had 17 children and 24 great-grandchildren.

Although she was initially upset that she had not graduated, she had come to terms with it and was happy to raise her children and be involved in the lives of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. -children.

But with all of her kids and grandkids grown up, Joyce started thinking again in 2019 about the college education she never finished.

“I guess I mentioned I was upset that I didn’t finish school and my kids encouraged me to go back,” Joyce recalled to CNN.

With the help of her children, Joyce re-enrolled at NIU that year to finish what she had started.

“I thought about it for a while. Then I thought, “Why not?” ,” Joyce told NIU at the time. “I have all the time in the world and the ability.”

Joyce didn’t have to return to campus because she could complete her studies from the comfort of her home using a computer, even though she had never owned one before. Although she was initially intimidated by using a computer, she eventually learned how to use it with the help of her children.

The great-grandmother was already used to learning online when the pandemic hit in March 2020, but her isolation and the difficulties of her studies were almost too much for her at the time.

“A lot of times I would have quit. I almost did,” Joyce recently recalled to NIU. “There were just too many people who knew about it. I didn’t want to let them down. times and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do it again.’ »

However, Joyce never gave up and continued to persevere in her learning. She even took classes she never thought she’d take until 2019, including social psychology, gerontology and adult development, according to USA today.

After three years of dedication and overcoming challenges, Joyce will finally cross the stage on Sunday, earning a bachelor’s degree in general studies. She says she will be grateful to everyone who has encouraged and helped her along the way.

“I’ve learned that I can do things I never thought I could, with the help of others,” the 90-year-old said, looking back on her unique college experience.

“You can never stop learning,” she added.

You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.

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