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Days after turning 84-years-old, woman earns her college degree

At 84, Betty Sandison got her bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies from the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.

MINNEAPOLIS — It's graduation season again — a time when people celebrate an accomplishment usually about four years in the making.

But in the case of Betty Sandison, it took more than 60 years to earn her degree from the University of Minnesota.

"I grew up on a farm with no electricity," said Sandison, who was the first in her family to go to college. 

She first started college in 1955 and earned a certificate to become a licensed practical nurse from the U of M. A year later, and nearly out of money, she started to pursue a teaching degree instead.

Only to then put that on hold to get married and have children of her own. 

"But if you have something you want to do, do it," said Sandison. "You’ve got to stay with it."

By the 1980s, she earned an associate's degree and eventually retired as a registered nurse — a life well-lived, but still incomplete, as pointed out by an old friend. 

"It was something I've always wanted," said Sandison. "She said, 'What's stopping you?' and I didn't have an answer."

So, after more than 60 years, in 2018, Betty came back to the U of M to finally earn her bachelor's degree. 

On May 7, 2022, the now 84-year-old took the stage at Northrop Auditorium with a couple hundred other graduates to receive her bachelor's degree in multidisciplinary studies from the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.

"I’m really proud of myself," said Sandison. "I mean, it was a goal — a dream fulfilled." 

She'll tell you that learning technology was hard and her tuition wasn't what it was back then either. Her fellow classmates, though, helped create a bond that will last a lifetime.

"It gave me so much joy and I looked at them I thought, this world is going to be just fine," said Sandison. "People say, 'I could never do that,' and I say, 'Yes, you could if you want it bad enough.'"

Sandison had to finish about 25 credits to earn her degree and her friends and family will celebrate her Wednesday with a graduation party.

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