A 90-year-old woman is graduating from college 71 years after beginning there.


A 90-year-old woman is graduating from college 71 years after beginning there. 71 years after her initial college enrollment, a 90-year-old woman will finally walk across the stage and receive her diploma.

In 1951, Joyce DeFauw, later Joyce Viola Kane, enrolled at Northern Illinois University as a freshman to earn a degree in home economics.

DeFauw told CNN on Thursday that her plans were altered when she met a remarkable man at church who won her heart.

“I attended school for three and a half years, but after I met him, I decided to leave,” said DeFauw.

Don Freeman Sr. was a unique individual. Before Freeman’s passing, the couple had three children together and were married in 1955. She has left a widow for about five years after his passing.

DeFauw eventually wed Roy DeFauw, her deceased second husband. Six children—including two sets of twins—were born to them collectively.

Her family grew over the years, and she now has 24 great-grandchildren in addition to 17 grandchildren.

DeFauw expressed interest in the college education she left behind in 2019 (fast forward to that year).

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She explained that after she regretted not finishing school, her kids encouraged her to return. As a result, she reapplied to Northern Illinois and enrolled in classes.

One of DeFauw’s 17 grandchildren and alumna of NIU, Jenna Dooley, told CNN that when DeFauw decided to return, it was more about the “why not” than the “why.”

Dooley recalled visiting her grandmother in her farmhouse as a child, where DeFauw was constantly baking or cooking.

DeFauw also previously taught Sunday school. She has always loved learning and teaching, according to Dooley.

When we called the school to inquire about a previous enrollment, they were stunned to learn that we were looking for a student from the 1950s, according to Dooley.

However, DeFauw found that things were very different this time.

She attended class from her retirement home, sitting in front of a computer screen rather than walking to campus.

It was my first computer, and my kids had to teach me how to use it, DeFauw remarked.

Dooley stated that her uncle Don, DeFauw’s eldest son, assisted with setting up the computer, procuring a camera, and instructing her how to use her school email.

According to Dooley, she was grateful for the computer in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic started. She continued, “It worked well that she was already set up online.

Dooley said that she could not receive visitors because she was living alone at the time. She occasionally became frustrated, but I kept reassuring her that everything was just a part of the process. Added she.

“At times, I considered giving up, but I refrained,” said DeFauw. She claimed to have

Judy Santacaterina, director of bachelor general studies, was highly beneficial to DeFauw. Dooley stated that the entire family appreciates Santacaterina for taking on the responsibility of assisting her grandmother in obtaining her degree.

DeFauw attended one class every semester, even in the summer. She has a routine and is very organized, according to Dooley. To maintain that routine, she wanted to continue taking classes.

Three years later, she will don the cap and gown and graduate this weekend with a Bachelor of General Studies degree.

DeFauw is grateful that she could return to school and complete her degree. It’s satisfying to complete a project that you’ve begun, she said.

Please don’t give up; she advised those in a similar circumstance. “I know it can be difficult, but everything in life has its ups and downs,” she said.

She has a gift for teaching and learning, so being able to rejoice over this is the cherry on top. Said Dooley.