Great-grandmother earns master’s degree: ‘Never, ever give up’


(NEW YORK) — Joan Donovan was 84 years old when she finished her college degree, but the great-grandmother said she didn’t want to stop learning just yet.

“I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to go to school. I met the most wonderful, intelligent people and professors and just everyone surrounded me with encouragement and support. And I learned that I had a love for writing,” Donovan told “Good Morning America.” “That’s when I found Southern New Hampshire University, which is a wonderful school too and I just loved every minute of it.”

Four years later, on Dec. 13, 2022, Donovan, now 89, graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a master’s degree in creative writing.

Although Donovan wasn’t on campus to receive her diploma, she still donned a cap and gown and walked to pomp and circumstance in a celebration courtesy of SNHU and her family.

“Took me two days to recuperate from it because of the whole wonderful, wonderful event that they planned. I just can’t tell you how excited I was,” said Donovan.

Donovan said the university heard she was graduating when her son called the school to ask for a frame for her diploma as a Christmas present this year. However, the school decided to send more than just a framed diploma, including a cap and gown, cupcakes, balloons and university spirit wear.

“And the funny part is, [my son] said to me the other day, ‘Gee mom, I owe you a Christmas gift because I got out of that one pretty cheap,"” said Donovan.

Now, Donovan said she is using her new degree to write a rom-com novel as well as an autobiography.

“Well, I waited 60 years to fulfill my dream. So I hope others don’t have to wait that long,” said Donovan, adding that her autobiography will be about overcoming the “roadblocks” of life.

Donovan, who has 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, said the most important things she’s learned in life are to be a “lifelong learner” and a “lifelong laugher.”

“Don’t ever give up. I mean, if something doesn’t work the first time, just try it again,” she said. “And eventually you’ll find your dream come true.”

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