Darlene Mullins, 72, set to graduate college 55 years after enrolling

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Darlene Mullins first enrolled at Tennessee State University in 1962.

On Saturday, Mullins will graduate.

Mullins tells USA TODAY NETWORK’s Larry McCormack that she stopped attending TSU when she met the love of her life John E. Mullins, Sr.

A member of the track team her freshman year, Darlene first noticed John “in the stands” during practices and training. The two eventually met and the relationship blossomed.

It blossomed to the point Darlene’s track coach gave her an ultimatum:

“Tucker, you gon have to make a decision,” Darlene recalls him saying, “whether it’s going to be John Mullins or my track team.”

Darlene chose John.

He landed a job in Dallas and Darlene followed him to start their new life together.

Watch the full interview with USA TODAY NETWORK below: 

With TSU in her rear-view mirror, Darelne started her own career as a businesswoman. She later became an owner of a salon/spa and had two children with John.

But she didn’t forget about TSU.

In 2013, with their children grown and following the passing of a sick aunt, Darlene asked John: “Take me back to where we met.”

“She gave up everything for me,” John Mullins said, “so now it was my time to follow her.”

Darlene adjusted to campus life, which included learning to register for her classes online, getting used to classmates a generation younger and…cell phones.

A lot of cell phones.

Her classmates affectionally called her “Ms. D, Mama, Nana, and Gramma.”

Darlene will earn her degree in interdisciplinary studies with concentrations in African studies and communications. She’s graduating summa cum laude and Phi Kappa Phi, for “those with GPAs higher than 3.75.

Read more about Darlene Mullins’ inspiring story here