Mae Beale is a prime example that great dreams are not accompanied by an expiration date. One day following her 82nd birthday, Beale walked across the stage to graduate from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), per NBC Washington’s news account. 

“I’m feeling excited, happy, energized… all the positive things that you can say, when you have accomplished your mission,” Beale said during the interview. 

A news release issued by UMGC revealed additional details about Beale’s inspiring story of returning to earn a college degree later in life. Beale decided to return to school in her late seventies to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, although she had already spent several years in a career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Beale also worked for various federal agencies. In 1994, Beale reportedly took steps to pursue an associate degree in Business Management at Howard Community College, and establish In Grand Style, which is her event planning business. The ambitious Howard County resident later opted to enroll at UMGC with a plan to earn a bachelor’s degree. One by one, Beale registered for a single class to pace herself.

 “I wanted to make certain I had the time to devote to whichever class I was taking,” Beale said, according to UMGC. “I was like the tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race.”  

While utilizing this strategy, Beale achieved making the Dean’s List multiple times and even finished her degree with honors. She acknowledged two people who cheered her on during the unique journey. According to 7 News DC, Beale’s son is one of her top supporters. And although her husband is now deceased, Beale also said that he was always her “biggest, encourager and motivator.”

 “I tell everyone my husband allowed me to be me,” Beal said in the news interview.

Less statistics tracking graduate and postgraduate students who attend college later in life seem to be available. Gathering more data about students who opt to attend high school immediately after college is commonplace. Nevertheless, the landscape of America’s students who find their ways to campuses is changing. Older adults who pursue degrees may seek new career paths. Paying for educational endeavors can also influence when a college path is feasible.

“Enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions of students who are 35 years old and over increased 13 percent between 2001 and 2015; and is projected to increase 4 percent between 2015 and 2026,” per data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. 

In 2021, PBS News Hour reported on the influx of American learners “50 and older” who are entering “college campuses for both personal and professional reasons.” Jules Means is a 67-year-old success story. She remarked that she was appreciative of being awarded a “full ride” to attend University of California, Berkeley. Her tuition expenses would have been nearly impossible to cover using her social security income. Going back to school to earn her sociology degree lifted her spirits after she became a stroke survivor. 

Beale’s reason for earning a bachelor’s degree in business management is tied to her entrepreneurial path. Strategically helping her event planning endeavors was another component of setting the goal, 7 News DC reported. The go-getter had already made her mark as an LPN and federal government employee, according to UMGC. Volunteering, staying civically engaged, and stepping up to lend community support in Howard County also spanned 40 years. Beale stayed on the move connecting to progressive activities, and joining additional local boards, “including those of the Howard County, Maryland Tourism and Promotion, the Restaurant Association, the Festival of the Arts, and the Columbia Bright Minds Association.”

Beale pointed out several important life lessons in her interview with NBC Washington. She mentioned her philosophy about how success transcends age limitations.

“Number one, you’re never too old to learn. But number two, you’ve got to be able to be intentional and you’ve got to keep your eye on your prize. Not their prize, but your prize,” Beale said.

While confidently providing additional insight, Beale stood with her graduation cap atop her head. She reminded the world that her personal recipe to remain focused turned out just right. 

 “And you don’t ever, ever let people deter you, because people are always going to tell you what to do, how to do, when to do, but you have to do you,” Beale told NBC Washington, mentioning that she is ready to greet her next adventure. “It’s never too late to follow your dreams.”

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