It's never too late to learn
61-year-old blooms, earns master's
Time has a way of slipping away, gathering momentum as it goes. Just ask Carole Gaston, a single parent who raised four children.
“My life has just flown by,” Gaston admits. “It sure doesn't seem like it has taken me long to get here.”
Sounds funny, coming from a 61-year-old who just earned her master's degree in horticulture and landscape architecture.
The metronome marking the time of her life ticked in a waltz tempo for a long time. But somewhere around age 45, without warning, her life switched to a jazz rhythm, then a rock-and-roll beat, going faster and faster.
If Gaston has learned anything in her 61 years, it's that it's never too late to start singing a brand new song. She was 50 before she laid the groundwork for her future.
Her grandparents lived to the age of 95. Likewise, she expects to lead a long life, a very long and active life.
“I know I was already 50, but I still thought if I still had 50 or 60 years left on this planet, I better figure out what I want to do,” Gaston says, “because I wasn't planning on sitting around doing nothing, or being feeble.”
So in 1994, Gaston enrolled in college as a 53-year-old freshman at Fort Valley State College near Macon, Ga. She had grandchildren that had more in common with her classmates than she did.
“Maturitywise, I don't think I was ready to go to college when I got out of high school,” Gaston admits. “Plus, I needed to spend 20 or 30 years raising my four children.”
With her children grown and gone, Gaston is pursuing a dream of teaching agricultural programs to farmers in developing countries in Africa or perhaps in a Caribbean nation. She received her master's degree from Purdue University at commencement exercises Aug. 9.
It's serendipitously fitting that Gaston, the poster child for late bloomers, earned her master's in horticulture and landscape architecture.
“People always told me when I was little that I was going to be a late bloomer,” she says. “I never knew what they meant, but now I do.”
Gaston is one of a growing number of nontraditional graduate students in the College of Agriculture who didn't follow a typical educational progression early in life.
According to a survey sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the median age of doctoral recipients in the United States in 2001 was 31.7 years.
“The nontraditional students bring value to our programs and to those around them,” says Dale Whittaker, assistant dean for academic programs for the College of Agriculture.
“Carole Gaston is a mentor and cheerleader for a number of minority students working toward advanced degrees. These nontraditional students challenge our faculty and bring real-world experiences into the classroom.”
Contact Gaston at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Credits||© 2003 Purdue University School of Agriculture|