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'Don't Let Anybody Stop You': 84-Year-Old Completes Her Dream Of Earning Degree From U Of M

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's graduation season right now, and many of those graduates are in their early 20s, just about to start their first job ever.

But at the University of Minnesota, there was one graduate whose diploma was 67 years in the making.

"Just pure joy, pure joy," said Betty Sandison, thinking back to graduation day from the U of M. "Pure satisfaction that I had attained my goal of walking across Northrop [Mall]."

In 1955, Sandison left Renville, her small farm town in central Minnesota, as the first person in her family to go to college.

She went to the U to get her license to be a nurse, a program that only took her a year. She continued taking college courses, but eventually was taken off course when she met her husband and followed his career moves, never finishing her degree.

"I was about 25 credits, approximately 25-, 28-credits short," said Sandison.

After raising two daughters and pursuing a decades-long nursing career, she eventually retired in 2013.

"I was out to lunch with friends and we were talking about bucket lists and things we wanted to do, and I said I've always wanted to graduate from the U," said Sandison.

She was determined to make that happen. Shortly after that lunch, she enrolled in classes at the U in fall of 2018. She says her second time around as a Gopher was a lot different.

Betty Sandison - 87yo U of M graduate
Betty Sandison (credit: University of Minnesota)

"This is the University of Minnesota when I was here," said Sandison, showing an aerial photograph of the campus in the 50s, when she first attended the university, "There was no West Bank. You can see the parking lots that are now all buildings."

A larger campus is one thing, but technology was her biggest obstacle.

"That computer business just almost did me in. I spent a lot of time at IT [Department]," said Sandison.

Going virtual during the peak of the pandemic in 2020 nearly stopped her dream.

"I had to drop both classes that I tried to take online, I couldn't do it," said Sandison, "But last fall, I started again."

On May 7, 2022, she did it. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.

"You need to do what you want to do or what your goals are. Don't let anybody stop you," said Sandison.

She says she doesn't know what's next for her, but said she's already brainstorming a new goal she can work towards again.

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