Eighty-one-year-old graduate walks the stage, earns long-awaited diploma

NOW: Eighty-one-year-old graduate walks the stage, earns long-awaited diploma

MISHAWAKA, Ind. --- College graduation; a time to celebrate success, reflect on years of hard work in school, but mostly, wonder about the future ahead and plan what comes next in your new, adult life. 

That’s the story for most graduates, but not all. 

Janice Hall is an 81-year-old great-grandmother and now, a graduate of Bethel University. 

“To receive the accolades, and the love and the support that I’ve received throughout this day has been wonderful,” says Janice Hall, the recent college graduate. 

It’s an achievement that’s been in her sights for over five decades, but more so after she retired nine years ago. 

“I was doing nothing, and gotten bored, so I thought this was a good opportunity to finish what I started,” Hall shares. 

At one point in life, Janice had been working towards earning her degree, but a serious car accident prevented her from reaching her goal. 

In the years since, she has raised a large family of three children, 14 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. She’s had an extensive career in human resources and working under some of South Bend’s mayors. She’s even received impressive rewards; the one she’s most proud of is a key to the city of South Bend. 

What you can’t tell by looking at her and her successes are the hardships she’s overcome. 

“Of course, there’s still challenges from the stroke,” Hall admits. “However, God has given me the strength to manage those.” 

A stroke, two battles with breast cancer, and the loss of her husband are some of those hurdles she’s jumped. 

“My mother has been resilient,” says Michael Patton, Hall’s son. “She’s persevered and she has met the challenge, not only today but over her lifetime.” 

She says she couldn’t have done it without her roll aider to help her get across the stage, but most importantly, she couldn’t have done it without her family who have been there every step of the way. 

“I remember talking to her on the phone when she would be writing her papers, and she was so dedicated, she would say ‘I have to get off the phone now I have to go do my homework,’” recalls Hall’s daughter, Michelle Patton Johnson. 

Like many others, Johnson is motivated by her mother’s story. 

“It has inspired me,” Johnson shares. “I’m going to go look at some master's programs for social work, so we will probably be in school at the same time together!” 

That’s right; Hall's journey in education is not over! She will be returning to Bethel University in the fall to earn her master’s in ministry. 

“It will assist me with some of the practical things that I need to carry out that degree and to do what God has called me to do,” Hall shares. 

It’s her faith that helped her get to this achievement and will guide her in all that’s yet to come. 

“I give God all of the glory,” Hall says. “He did it, He did it.” 

“I’m excited for her future,” says Johnson. “At 81, she still has a future.” 


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