Joyce DeFauw, a 90-year-old mother of nine, grandmother of 17, and great-grandmother of 24, just made history as one of the oldest graduates of Northern Illinois University. Back in 1951, Joyce enrolled in NIU with hopes of getting a degree in home economics. She almost made it to graduation, but she “met this good-looking guy” in church, and the two decided to get married.
Putting her degree on hold, Joyce had three babies in three years before her husband passed away a few years later. She spent five years as a widow before remarrying and having six more children, including two sets of twins. Yet, she never stopped thinking about that unfinished college degree.
Joyce mentioned this feeling of unfinished business to her children, who were supportive. Finally, in 2019, she decided the time was right! She enrolled in NIU and took online courses towards a general studies bachelor’s degree. Her hard work paid off when she finally donned her cap and gown and graduated with the class of 2022.
An Illinois woman began studying at NIU in 1951. This weekend, she will finally walk across the stage to get her degree.— WNIJ (@WNIJNews) December 6, 2022
She also happens to have a close connection to WNIJ. Read more about Joyce DeFauw: https://t.co/MVtpA4GU0L pic.twitter.com/hC66YFDqGM
Joyce has some words of wisdom for anyone who’s considering challenging themselves like she did. “Keep going. Don’t give up,” she told GMA. “You might feel like it and all that, but just hang in there because the end will come and you will be victorious.”
NIU President Dr. Lisa Freeman says the respect and admiration goes both ways. “Joyce DeFauw is an inspiration, a trailblazer, and now an Northern Illinois University college graduate,” she said.
“She has beautifully shown that earning a degree is life-changing at any age, and that it’s never too late to pursue new knowledge.” Joyce is a reminder that it’s never too late to make your dreams come true.