Great Grandmother, 89, Earns Bachelor’s Degree

Great Grandmother, 89, Earns Bachelor’s Degree

There’s always time to go back and get a degree. One great-grandmother took that mantra to heart when she received her bachelor’s degree at the age of 89.

Betty Reilly never finished high school, but at the age of 78 decided it finally time to get it done. Living with her husband in Sunrise, Florida, the self-professed book worm was drawn to a job opportunity at the local library. Disappointed to hear that the job required a high school diploma, she used that as fuel for her pursuit of higher education.

Reilly initially set out to get her GED to meet the requirements for the librarian position, but her plans changed when a teacher in a prep class told her that an essay she wrote was “publishable.”

“That’s all I had to hear,” she said.

Reilly had limited funds to pay for college and didn’t have a car, so she applied for a federal Pell Grant, which took care of most of the tuition, books and fees, and took an hour-long bus ride to class.

When she arrived at Broward Community College in Davie, Florida in 2007, she admitted she was “shy” at first and received some “odd” stares from her classmates.

“There were all these young, bright kids who know the technology,” she said. “All I could do [on a computer] was get my email and get my horoscope.”

“Twice, I was on eBay,” she added.

After receiving her associate’s degree, Reilly attended the FAU campus in Davie, Florida to go for her bachelor’s degree in English Literature.

Her 59-year-old daughter, Kathy Johnson, said the family was “overwhelmed” with joy for her.

“She’s wanted it for a long time,” Johnson told ABC News. “Watching her brought joy to every member of my family, and it was the proudest moment for all of us.”

Reilly is “one of the oldest” students to graduate from FAU with a bachelor’s degree, the school’s chief press officer, Lisa Metcalf, told ABC News.

“The whole audience started chanting [her name] because they were so excited for her,” she said.

Reilly plans to apply for a scholarship for a master’s degree, but her professors, with whom she is on a first-name basis, have invited her to sit in as a guest in their classes if she doesn’t receive one.

“Once I’m out of class, we’re friends,” she said. “Why stop now?”

(Parts of this article appeared on ABC)

Return to category Editor Pick 2, Inspirational-Heros

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