72-Year-Old Senior Finishes College with Honors after 55 Years

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‘Age is just a number when it comes to academics,’ that is how the old sayings suggest. Indeed, Darlene Mullins is a living testimony to the saying who has taught the world that it’s never too late to go back to school.

The 72-year-old senior recently graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. The grandmother of four left campus nearly 55 years ago in the name of love and on Saturday last week, she walked at the school’s commencement.

In 1962, Mullin was a track star at the historically black college. She met her husband-to-be, John Mullins in the same year. In 2014, with an interview with the HBCU’s campus magazine, Darlene said that she thought Mullin was the finest person she had met in college.

From the moment the duo met, they knew they would marry each other and began dating shortly afterward. Unfortunately, Darlene’s track coach realized that she was spending most of her time with her boyfriend.

Thus, her coach told her to choose either the track team or John. Love dominated in Darlene’s decision, and she chose John against all consequences.

Darlene finished her freshman year with 25 credits and got married to John in 1963. Her husband began working in 1964, immediately after graduating. Darlene took care of the household and engaged in domestic chores and her female roles including taking care of their son and daughter.

John had a successful career in business. As a result, he had to migrate with his family to live in six states over the years. Darlene began a career in retail and Cosmetology as their children grew older.

That meant that most of her free time became occupied with family roles and her career. She always longed to finish school, and that feeling intensified when the couple would visit the HBCU for homecomings and graduation celebrations.

When Darlene told her husband about her intentions to get back to school, John was very supportive. He said to TSU that he loved her wife so much that he couldn’t do anything to hold back her plans.

Darlene found a breakthrough in 2013 when the couple moved back to Nashville for Darlene to re-enroll. Darlene had to adjust to the technological advances in the classroom. She says that she was determined to finish her school no matter the setbacks and took many credit hours a semester.

After completing four years, Darlene graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies. She says she felt like God gave her a second chance. Darlene hopes that her story can inspire others pursuing a degree. Her advice about education to the upcoming generation is to try to obtain it the first time.

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  1. Gwendolyn Holland

    Gwendolyn Holland

    May 11, 2017 at 5:11 pm


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