90-Year-Old with 24 Great-Grandchildren Accomplishes Dream To Finish School

[, NIU]

Some things are better late than never. CBS in Chicago wrote, “It took her more than 70 years, but Joyce DeFauw has completed her bachelor’s degree at Northern Illinois University, attending her commencement Sunday in DeKalb.

DeFauw, 90, started at NIU in 1951, but left college to start a family.

In 2019, when she told her children she regretted never finishing her degree, they encouraged her to go back.

Instead of going to classes on campus, she attended NIU online, with her very first computer.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies, making her 17 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren very proud.”

DeFauw came from humble beginnings, growing up on a farm with her parents and three siblings. But education remained important in her life, and she became the first person in her family to go college. She felt inspired by her mother, who was a teacher,” according to The Chicago Tribune.

“Coming from a little home in the country as a child, I have been given so much,” DeFauw said. “I think I admired my mother and wanted to be like her, and she taught school and taught her children good life values, which I’ve tried to pass on to my family.”

“Over half a century later, DeFauw’s granddaughter, Jenna Dooley, who teaches in NIU’s journalism department and serves as the news director of Northern Public Radio, said her family felt she was still living with some regret over not finishing her degree. She said her uncle, DeFauw’s oldest son, was first to suggest the idea of going back,” the newspaper continued.

Joyce told USA Today that she left NIU after a little more than three years because she fell in love. Soon after meeting Mr. Right, the couple had kids, three total, but Joyce’s first husband died young. Five years later, she remarried and had six more children, including two sets of twins. 

Rex Huppke of USA Today sat down with Joyce to talk about her amazing accomplishment. He wrote, “Some might say that at 90 years old, Joyce DeFauw is graduating from college a bit late.

I disagree. Her age is a number, nothing more. A chronological tally. It doesn’t show us the life she has lived, the people she has loved, the children she has raised and the wisdom gained in the process.

Joyce, I’d argue, is getting her bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University right on time. And when she walks across the stage at Sunday’s graduation ceremony in DeKalb, her very presence will deliver a message she recently shared with me: ‘Keep learning. We don’t even use a fraction of our brain, so it’s there if we only take advantage of it and use it. Keep going.’”

Joyce’s alma mater is so proud of her. They produced a video celebrating her so that she could continue to inspire others. 

Happy graduation, Joyce! 


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  1. Graduate any & all for HS or college degrees OK of the Boomer generation

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