SANTA CLARA (KPIX) -- An 87-year-old nun completing her second master's degree is among the Class of 2022 at Santa Clara University celebrating graduation on Saturday as she looks forward to putting her education to work helping others.
"I had the time and the opportunity to do it so I just went for it," said Sister Judith Roach, who completed her Master of Arts in pastoral ministries in June. "I think the idea of age is becoming a little more obsolete."
Roach is a member of the religious order Society of the Sacred Heart and now has three degrees after previously finishing a bachelor's and master's in history before becoming a student at Santa Clara University.
She had not attended classes at a college campus since the 1980s and she has spent the past five years working on this degree.
"This was a wonderful, wonderful open and change in my life," she told KPIX. "A decision that we make, we have no idea what the ramifications will be."
In addition to her work with the Society of the Sacred Heart, she has spent much of her career in elementary education. The chance to study theology and scripture attracted her as she had received most of her religious instruction prior to Vatican II.
"We're all one people under God," she said. "I think we inspire each other and we contribute to the world we live in whenever we try to become more of the person we're meant to be."
Throughout her life, she saw others who were challenging the expectations of age and reading about people who defied the norm for their generation both in school and sport. Her love of books kept her passionate about learning but she did have to adjust to modern computer technology.
"I forgot to save it to my e-mail and I lost it," Roach explained about one essay assignment. "Whoa! That was bad!"
A lifelong learner well before she returned to university studies for a second time, she says there was much more to appreciate by continuing education as she got older. Her motivation to help anyone struggling grew while in this degree program.
"I can go in and maybe help them lift their spirits," she said. "I just think I am no different than anyone who is in prison."
Criminal justice reform remains a passion for her and, as a volunteer, she hopes to connect with adults in need of healing while serving time. While many of her classmates were less than half her age, she found them to be encouraging.
"When you start something, you may think you're old but you have many more years ahead of you to do it," Roach said. "I found this a very loving campus. I was very impressed by how open and welcoming the students were."
Among her takeaways to pass on to anyone who may want to go back to college later in life is the message that failure is not meant to be feared and following your true self is key to happiness.
"I think every person is brilliantly endowed by the fact that they exist," she said.
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