85-Year-Old College Graduate Sets a High Standard

By Robyn Tellefsen / Posted on 05 July 2013

willadene zedanThis spring, Willadene Zedan (pictured here) earned a degree with honors from Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She also started a new job. What’s so special about this new college grad? Well, for one thing, she’s 85 years old.

Zedan didn’t always have her sights set on a college education. But after her husband of 50 years passed away, she decided she wanted to keep her mind alert by auditing a college class. That was in 1999, when she was 71.

In the years since, the theology major has ramped up her coursework and made time to participate in the Honor Society. Not only that, Zedan spent five weeks studying abroad in Rome last year, learning about Italy in the 19th and 20th centuries as well as Italian literature.

As her college career progressed, Zedan realized she was doing more than staving off boredom and dementia – she was training for a new career. With her brand new college diploma, she’ll be accompanying her own doctor on visits to homebound patients, encouraging them to be as mentally and physically active as possible.

Zedan’s five children, 15 grandchildren, and 26 great-grandchildren came together for the momentous occasion of her college graduation, though not all have been completely thrilled with her success. In fact, she says, some of her grandchildren have been raked over the coals by their parents for receiving subpar grades. The argument: “My mother’s on the dean’s list. If Grandma can do it, why can’t you?”

A compelling argument indeed.

There are 4 Comments about this post

  1. What an inspiring story! I love it. My husband and I are blessed to both have mothers about to turn 86, each of whom is active and in good health. My mom would love to go to college. In fact, she told my daughter who is starting her freshman year that she’s going with her in spirit. We are never too old to learn.


    on 08 July 2013 / 10:57 PM

  2. Thanks for your comment, Marianne. It is definitely a blessing to have parents who are active and in good health! I wonder if your mom could take a class or two to test the waters?


    on 14 July 2013 / 8:47 PM

  3. Phil Willis says,

    Such a great story.
    You’re never too old to start (and finish) something new.


    on 29 July 2013 / 8:10 PM

  4. Thanks, Phil. I completely agree!


    on 29 July 2013 / 8:52 PM


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