91-Year-Old Graduates From College 70 Years After Becoming Student


If there are two lessons to living a full and happy life, it’s age is just a number and it’s never too late for dreams to become reality. Just ask 91-year-old Mary Ellen Foley, who just graduated from college after pursuing a degree back in 1950.

According to a release from Southwest Missouri State College, Foley just graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in early childhood education. She started her academic career at Missouri State University when it used to be called Southwest Missouri State College. Then, she transferred to the University of Missouri, but her degree would come decades later.


91-year-old Mary Ellen Foley at last graduated with her college degree decades after her academic career was cut short


The stars repeatedly refused to align when Foley was trying to formally acquire a college degree in the previous century. First, she discovered she was pregnant when she was just a few credits shy of graduating. After this revelation, Foley dropped out to focus on her budding family.

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Then the ’70s came around and Foley found herself in a position where she could start thinking about continuing her higher education. However, she found that the degree requirements had changed at the Missouri college she’d attended decades prior.

This goal started as a dream from the previous generation and would finally be realized with help from the next.

Past dreams and future love came together to help Foley achieve her goal

91-year-old Mary Ellen Foley had put off her education to focus on her family / Unsplash

This wasn’t only a matter of not obtaining a helpful piece of paper. “My father wanted me to go into teaching because he only had an 8th-grade education,” explained Foley. That first road bump derailed her for decades but it also saw Foley find lasting love when she married Charles Foley, who himself had studied animal science. Charles earned his bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD at the College of Veterinary Medicine while Foley took her break. Over time, the family grew to have four children, who Foley focused her attention on.

In March 2024, Charles passed away, leaving behind a loving family and a distinguished military career.

Weeks ago, Foley shared with her grandson, Brandon Droy, that she wished she could have earned a college degree like she and her father had so wanted. Droy decided to put that plan into motion by contacting the University of Missouri and sharing Foley’s transcript with them. As it turns out, she already had what she needed, by the current policy, to earn a degree in general studies.

The university determined that Foley had enough credits to earn a degree, decades later / Unsplash

Mizzou’s current academic policies and processes allow us to bestow Mary with her degree that she has earned and deserves,” announced Dr. Jim Spain, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies. “We are excited to have her as a member of the May 2024 graduating class of the University of Missouri.”

What’s more, the day of her graduation fell on the birthday of her late husband, Charles.

I am excited and surprised,” admitted Mary. “I put aside my degree so I could work. I’m just glad that all my children received their college degrees.” Ultimately, Foley was unable to attend the ceremony in person but she and her family were able to watch a livestream of the ceremony. Congratulations to Mizzou graduate Mary Ellen Foley!

University of Missouri / Wikimedia Commons

RELATED: At Age 78, This Great-Grandmother Earned Her College Degree And Is In Love With Learning

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