For Joyce Lowenstein (B.A. ’19), a framed bachelor’s degree is the realization of a dream seven decades in the making.
When Joyce Lowenstein pictured her graduation day at Georgia State, she never imagined anyone would make a big fuss over it.
But on the May morning she joined her peers at Georgia State Stadium for the university’s 104th commencement ceremony, Joyce got a special shout-out from Georgia State President Mark Becker.
He recognized her as the class of 2019’s oldest graduate and applauded her determination. Just off the heels of her 93rd birthday, Joyce was finally crossing the stage to accept her diploma — her grandchildren and great-grandchildren cheering proudly from the stands.
It was an occasion she’d imagined over and over again since withdrawing from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the early 1940s. Three semesters in, she’d left to reunite with her fiancé in New York.
Life brought on marriage, children, jobs and busy schedules in the Big Apple. Joyce turned a passion for art into a career. As the years rolled on and the work got bigger and bigger, she became a major player in the city’s arts scene. Still, she harbored one regret.
“I didn’t want to be degreeless!” she said.
The years flew by until 2006, when Joyce’s husband, Larry, died. After more than 40 years as an art buyer, interior designer and antiques dealer, she knew it was time for the next chapter, to make time for what she’d set on the backburner. She found Georgia State’s GSU-62 program, which waives tuition for students older than 62, and prepared to re-enter the classroom for the first time in more than seven decades.
Despite some initial intimidation, Joyce embraced the culture shock and learned to roll with the punches. She scaled back her businesses and called on longtime friend Barbara Domir for help typing up her handwritten papers. (She never learned to type.) She got a rolling suitcase to haul her heavy textbooks around campus, hired math tutors to help her conquer algebra and captured class notes on a tape recorder. She picked up PowerPoint, pulled all-nighters and forced herself to find her voice in class.
Now, she’s got her eye on an online certification course in fine art appraisal.
“I’m proud of my age,” she says. “I’m 93, and I made it through seven years to get my degree at Georgia State. I can handle a year online.”
Photo by Meg Buscema.
Watch the video below and read our profile of Joyce from the winter 2016 issue.