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‘Pure joy’: Grandma earns college degree at age 84

Published: May. 24, 2022 at 2:14 AM CDT
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Nearly seven decades after she started college, an 84-year-old woman graduated, proving it’s never too late to achieve one’s goals.

Betty Sandison started studying at the University of Minnesota about 67 years ago. She had to pause her education when she got married but never lost her desire to finish.

On May 7, Sandison graduated with a degree in multidisciplinary studies at age 84.

Betty Sandison, 84, graduated from the University of Minnesota about 67 years after she started...
Betty Sandison, 84, graduated from the University of Minnesota about 67 years after she started studying there. She had to pause her education when she got married but never lost her desire to get her degree.(Source: University of Minnesota, WCCO via CNN)

“Just pure joy, pure joy, pure satisfaction that I had attained my goal of walking across Northrop [Mall],” she said.

Sandison left Renville, her small farm town in central Minnesota in 1955, as the first person in her family to go to college. She went to the university to get her license to be a nurse, a program that only took her a year.

She continued taking college courses but didn’t finish her degree, taken off course by meeting her husband and following his career moves. She stopped about 25 to 28 credits short of graduating.

After raising two daughters and pursuing a decades-long nursing career, Sandison eventually retired in 2013.

“I was out to lunch with friends, and we were talking about bucket lists and things we wanted to do. I said I always wanted to graduate from the U,” she said.

Determined to make that happen, Sandison enrolled in classes at the university in fall 2018, where her second time around was a lot different.

The campus was larger, but her biggest obstacle was technology.

“That computer business just almost did me in,” Sandison said.

Going virtual during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 nearly kept her from her goal. She had to drop both the classes she tried to take online.

But Sandison finally got her degree, proving it’s never too late to achieve one’s goals.

“You need to do what you want to do or what your goals are. Don’t let anybody stop you,” she said.

She says she doesn’t know what’s next for her, but she’s already brainstorming a new goal she can work towards.

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