Illinois woman graduates college 70 years after first enrolling

Midwest

DEKALB, Ill. (WGN) — A 90-year-old great-grandmother became a college graduate on Sunday.

Walking across the stage to receive her college degree from Northern Illinois University was a moment 70 years in the making for Joyce DeFauw.

She is one of the oldest Huskies to ever graduate from the university.

“There’s so much going on that I can hardly fathom everything and take it in,” DeFauw said. “It’s fantastic.”

She first enrolled in what was then Northern Illinois State Teachers College in 1951.

DeFauw started out as an early elementary major, then home economics and then took German, typing and bookkeeping.

“But my goodness sake. At my church, there was this young man that certainly was attractive,” she said. “And apparently it was reciprocal because we decided to get together and then I decided to leave school.”

Her husband died, and she remarried. In all, she had nine children.

As life happened, she never forgot about school.

“Apparently the children said that I wish I had told them. I wish I had finished,” DeFauw said. “And they thought, ‘Well, why don’t you go now? You have nothing to do, nothing better to do.’ I think you’re right. So I decided to go back. But I needed a computer.”

They got her one, and in 2019, she reenrolled at NIU.

She completed her classes online from the retirement community where she lives in Geneseo, Illinois.

“Well, I was assigned classes, but there were times when I wanted to quit,” DeFauw said. “But I was, um, ‘Now, don’t quit now you’re so near. Don’t give up now.’ And I’m very thankful that I didn’t, and I had guidance and encouragement.”

She was granted a scholarship to cross the finish line, and faculty and staff call her an inspiration, saying they learned as much from her as she learned from them.

At 90 years old, DeFauw is receiving her bachelor’s degree in general studies. She said you’re never too old to finish what you started.

“There’s so much to learn, and life is so exciting, and we’re all given different talents,” she said. “We’re all here for a reason. And so just keep going.”

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