84-yo bored with retirement goes back to college to get bachelor’s degree

An 84-year old Texas woman who just earned her bachelor’s degree proves that age is merely a number.

Janet Fein, who has raised five children and worked as a secretary until age 77, unexpectedly didn’t want to spend her retirement years relaxing. Instead, she wanted to work towards achieving another milestone – earning a college degree.

She fulfilled her long-time goal this December when she graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, which she believed was “substantial.” Fein said, “I didn’t have anything to do in retirement, and I didn’t think that playing bingo was up to my speed.”

Janet Fein earns her bachelor's degree.
AP News | LM Otero

She is indeed an academic enthusiast, saying that she enjoyed all the reading and writing of papers. “With each class, I already knew a lot, but then I also learned a lot. And that made me happy,” she said. To assist in affording her education, Fein participated in a state program that allowed people aged 65 and above to take up to six credit hours for free at public universities in Texas.

The journey towards getting her bachelor’s degree diploma wasn’t an easy one. Fein began going to school at UTD in 2012. Back then, she lived alone and drove herself around. Unfortunately, her health began to deteriorate after a few years, reaching the point where she needed a walker and oxygen. This prompted her to move to an assisted living facility. Then her knees gave out, so she took online classes and did a semester of independent study to fulfill her degree requirements.

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Janet Fein 67 years ago and today | The University of Texas at Dallas

Fein said she wanted the degree “with all of my heart,” and it certainly showed through her perseverance to finish the course despite her health struggles. Her college adviser, Sheila Rollerson, says “She did not give up in the midst of her challenges … she just kept plugging along,”.

Janet Fein with Sheila Rollerson | The University of Texas at Dallas

Fein grew up in the Bronx, New York City. Back in high school, all she wanted was to graduate and get a job. After graduating at the age of 16, she went to work as a secretary at a dress manufacturer. Then she got married, spent 18 years taking care of her children while working several jobs over the decades, including the one she retired from in 2012 after 20 years – a secretarial job at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. She also worked on her associate degree for two decades before finally earning it in 1995.

Receiving her bachelor's degree diploma.
Janet Fein beams as she received her diploma | Dallas News

During her graduation, she had rows of family members cheering her on from the bleachers. UTD president Richard C. Benson also showed his support and admiration by giving her a bouquet of flowers before the ceremony, telling her “You are the most remarkable graduate I’ve ever known.”

Despite all of her achievements, it seems that Fein can’t be stopped. She’s actually thinking about pursuing another field of study – a political science minor.

Watch the video below to see as Janet Fein herself recounts the journey towards realizing her lifelong dream. We hope this story inspires you to keep pursuing your dreams! They do come true, as long as you put your heart into it.

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