At the age of 90, Joyce DeFauw has proven that age is no barrier to achieving lifelong dreams. This remarkable woman, a mother of nine, grandmother of 17, and great-grandmother of 24 from Geneseo, Illinois, has just made history as one of the oldest graduates of Northern Illinois University (NIU).
Joyce's journey towards her degree in home economics, which began back in 1951, encountered several detours but ultimately reached its inspiring conclusion.
Three and a half years into her studies at NIU, Joyce's path took an unexpected turn when she met her future husband at church. Love beckoned, and Joyce decided to prioritize her relationship, temporarily putting her academic pursuits on hold. In the years that followed, she had three children in quick succession before tragically losing her husband. As a young widow, Joyce remarried and went on to have six more children, including two sets of twins. Despite the demands of her family, Joyce never let go of her aspirations for a college degree.
The desire to complete her unfinished business lingered within Joyce, and she shared her ambitions with her supportive children. Encouraged by their belief in her, they gifted her a computer and urged her to pursue her long-delayed degree. Finally, in 2019, Joyce made the bold decision to enroll at NIU, embarking on her academic journey by taking online courses for a general studies bachelor's degree. Every day, she dedicated time to her studies, even when faced with challenges and moments of doubt.
"There were just too many people who knew about it. I didn't want to let them down," Joyce confessed. Despite contemplating quitting at times, she found the determination to persist, not wanting to repeat the experience of giving up. Her perseverance paid off when she proudly adorned her cap and gown to graduate with the class of 2022.
Joyce's remarkable achievement offers valuable lessons for those contemplating personal challenges. She imparts her wisdom, encouraging others to persevere and never give up, emphasizing that victory will come to those who persist. Joyce expresses deep gratitude to the teachers and staff at NIU for their unwavering support and guidance throughout her academic journey. The combination of their encouragement and the unwavering support of her family propelled her towards success. Dr. Lisa Freeman, President of NIU, commends Joyce as an inspiration and a trailblazer, highlighting her transformative journey as a testament to the life-changing power of earning a degree at any age.
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's story serves as a reminder that it is never too late to pursue one's passions and seek new knowledge. As we all harbor regrets about missed opportunities from our youth, witnessing this incredible great-grandmother rectifying past choices is truly heartening. Joyce DeFauw stands as a shining example of resilience, determination, and the boundless capacity for personal growth, inspiring others to believe that their dreams can be realized, regardless of age or circumstance.