83-year-old black woman earns PhD at US university, sets record as school’s oldest graduate

An 83-year-old woman named Marie Fowler has set a record as Howard University’s oldest-ever graduate after she earned her Doctoral degree in divinity.

Marie Fowler obtained her PhD degree in Divinity at Howard University School of Divinity, United States. She stated that earning her doctorate degree in divinity was a calling from God.

“It was never my thought that I would go beyond maybe one semester because, after all, I started school when I had been out of school since 1959. I didn’t even know if I could even retain information,” she said.

She had earlier bagged a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees from the Maple Springs Baptist Bible College and Seminary before spending three years at Howard University to earn her PhD.

Marie said she initially did not think she would make it all the way to graduation. “It was never my thought that I would go beyond maybe one semester because, after all, I started school when I had been out of school since 1959. I didn’t even know if I could even retain information,” she said.

She stated that she doubted her ability and finances at this stage of her life, Fowler said it was her parents’ experiences and her father’s words still ringing in her ear that pushed her forward.

Despite her doubts about her ability and finances at this stage of her life, she stated that it was her parents’ experiences and her father’s words that continued to resonate in her ear, motivating her to push forward.

“My mom and dad were born in an era when it was illegal for them to learn to read and write. We taught my dad how to read and write and how to sign his name so he wouldn’t have to put that X,” she said.

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Marie said she exceeded her own expectations by earning her doctoral degree in three years. “I want to say is that it is never too late. I want everyone to realize that I am 83, which means if I can do it, why not you,” she said.

During her time at Howard University, Marie’s vibrant spirit and determination left a lasting impression. The Professor of the Hebrew Bible, Dr. Alice Ogden Bellis,  described her as “the life of the party.” She added that Marie knew what she wanted and she came here and she did that.”

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