A 90-year-old woman from Geneseo, Illinois graduated from Northern Illinois University (NIU) last Sunday with a bachelor's degree in general studies, after starting her college journey 70 years ago.

"Never Give Up"

We all have dreams in life, and we all have goals. Some we finish, some we don't even start, and some we give up on when life throws too many hurdles our way. To say I am inspired by Joyce DeFauw's story is a massive understatement. To say I am in awe of Joyce DeFauw is absolutely correct.

According to WGN-TV, Joyce DeFauw, who was born in 1931, began her studies at NIU in 1949 but dropped out after two years to raise her family. She returned to school decades later, determined to finish what she had started although life threw MANY obstacles in her path, including the death of her husband and one of her nine children.

Suzanne Tennant-Northern Illinois University
Suzanne Tennant-Northern Illinois University

For nearly 70 years, Joyce never came up her dream of graduating college. So, why did Joyce DeFauw decide it was important to finish her degree at 90 years old? Quite simply, she's a believer in education.

Here is what Joyce said in a recent article that Northern Illinois University published about her amazing achievement;

You can’t put a value on it, in my opinion, just don’t give up. I mean if you have the opportunity, take that opportunity, and you never know. A lot of us get sidetracked or whatever, but go back. Don’t give up.”

DeFauw, who is now the oldest graduate in NIU's history, attended classes part-time while also working as a substitute teacher. She faced many challenges along the way, but received help from many of NIU's outstanding staff members.

WGN-TV says Joyce most recently re-enrolled as an NIU student in 2019 and finished her classes online from the retirement home where she lives in Geneseo.

To truly understand just how magnificent Joyce DeFauw's recent accomplishment is, I encourage you to read the entire NIU article, here.

Joyce, thank you for showing us all that you are never too old to give up on your hopes and dreams and that hard work and tenacity always wins in the end. Congratulations on your degree!


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