80-Year-Old graduate Donzella Washington makes history at Alabama A&M University

Donzella Washington, 80 of Birmingham, Alabama, walks on her graduation day at Alabama A&M University on Dec. 6, 2019. (Credit to Alabama A&M University )

Donzella Washington graduated magna cum laude from Alabama A&M University and made history as the oldest graduate in the school’s 144-year history.

Washington, 80, had dreamed of finishing up college for decades. On Dec. 6, she did so in high fashion, earning a 4.0 GPA her last semester with a bachelor’s degree in social work, according to Good Morning America.

“I want to inspire and motivate others that age is not a barrier,” Washington said to Good Morning America. “And I want to emphasize the life between the dash.”

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Originally from Los Angeles, Washington and her husband, Jeff, lived on a farm in Pixley, California and fostered 30 children over the years, which included six siblings that Washington didn’t want to see torn apart.

Washington said her husband of nearly 50 years always encouraged her to go back to school because he knew earning a degree was one of her top goals. She told ABC News that she dedicates her degree to her husband. “I wanted to finish in his honor.”

“My father was my mother’s No. 1 fan. He supported everything she did, especially returning to school,” their daughter, Kimberly Washington, told Good Morning America. “Although my father did not have a traditional college education, he knew the value of gaining one.”

“I have seen her work tirelessly to achieve this dream and to finally be there to see her was a very proud moment,” Kimberly Washington added.

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Washington moved to Montgomery, Alabama, with her daughter in 2012, following the deaths of her mom, sister and husband, who all died in a three-year timeframe from 2010.

Kimberly said she had to step in to encourage and push her mom through times of intense grief over her dad’s death.

“The most challenging part has been consoling her when she was missing my father most … those moments when she cries and all I can do is hold her and love on her,” Kimberly said.

But Donzella Washington did it and now says she may return to college to earn a master’s degree.

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