Posted May 15, 2013

‘No limit on learning’: Class’s oldest grad realizes 25-year goal

Joseph V. Labolito
At 73, Marie Meyer will graduate from Temple cum laude with a bachelor's degree in psychology.

At 73 years young, Marie Meyer holds the distinction of being this year's oldest graduate. As a young woman, Meyer never had the opportunity to pursue higher education herself, but she decided to enroll at Temple in 1988 after the passing of her eldest son Herbert Meyer, who had been a Temple student. "He never had the chance to graduate, so I decided to do it for him," said Meyer, a native of Philadelphia. She took one course a semester, while maintaining full time employment and simultaneously caring for her elderly mother. Along the way, life's events — a hip replacement, the wedding of her youngest son — threatened her ability to achieve her dream. But she persevered, taking the subway up Broad Street from her South Philly home several times a week, and in the end Meyer will graduate cum laude with a bachelor's degree in psychology.

Temple Times: What changes at Temple stand out most to you?
Marie Meyer: Over the years I have seen buildings on campus go up and come down. The campus is really different today than when I started. Another change I have noticed is in the ways students dress these days. Twenty-five years ago, there were maybe a few students with pink or purple hair, and trends like tattoos and multiple piercings were just beginning. Now that's all common.

TT: What's it like being the oldest student in the room?
MM: Sometimes during a class discussion a topic might come up that has to do with popular culture, and I will have no idea what they are talking about. But I don't mind. I am always interested in learning about something new. And just as frequently  a professor will lecture about an event that took place before most students in the class were born, and I will have lived through it firsthand. So in that case, I was at an advantage.

TT: How did the younger students respond to you?
MM: Most students were very supportive, as were all of my professors, TA's and advisors … just incredibly supportive. And the students would say to me, "That's so great you've gone back to school. My grandmother wants to do that, but she thinks she's too old." And I tell them, "Oh, no. You're never too old." How can you put a limit on learning; I want to keep learning until the day I die.

TT: What will you do now?
MM: I retired from my job in 2009 and now that I have completed my degree, I am looking forward to spending time with my son and my grandchildren.