Loud cheers reverberated at the PPL Center in Pennsylvania as 71-year-old Maryann Wickemeyer was awarded a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with concentrations in theology, history, and philosophy at DeSales University.
Wickemeyer, a resident of Bethlehem, graduated summa cum laude along with 400 other students. She commented that she has always wanted to pursue education, even when she was a child.
“But there was more that was nagging at me, you know — the education,” she told The Morning Call. “I just used to tell people, ‘If only I had that degree, like the scarecrow from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ If only I had a degree, I’d be smart.’ And I’d always joke about it like, ‘I just need that sheet of paper, and then I’ll know I have a brain.’”
Wickemeyer stated that her decision to go to college at her age sprang from a desire to enrich herself, find things that interest her, and learn more about different topics.
“We don’t talk about age as a stopping point for me. It’s just another year, another number. It’s what life is supposed to be all about — to do the best you can with the time you have, and not to measure it in just stages, but rather just taking it as it comes, one day at a time,” she added.
Convinced by Her Children
Wickemeyer admitted that her sons convinced her to participate in the graduation ceremony on Friday. She said she hesitated to walk with her class because the other graduates are still young.
She also remarked that her children do not consider her a senior citizen and decided to be with her as she received her diploma.
“It almost makes me well up with tears thinking that my sons are going to be at my graduation. Oh, it’s wonderful to know they’ll be there,” she expressed.
‘Important Marks of Progress’
According to a US Census Bureau report, earning a bachelor’s degree plays an important role for individuals and society. People who attain a four-year qualification have higher earnings over their lifetimes, lower rates of unemployment, and better health outcomes.
Nonprofit organization AARP published a study showing that those with higher levels of education are more likely to receive good working conditions and higher compensation, providing an incentive to work longer.