75-year-old completes 50-year journey with Troy University degree

Posted: Thursday, 02 June 2016

DOTHAN – Irene Whitehurst Johnson knows a little something about perseverance.

For more than 50 years, she took college courses off and on while working in civil services and raising her children, all in an attempt to attain a college degree.

On Sunday, May 15, her perseverance paid off when the 75-year-old Enterprise resident walked across a stage at the Dothan Civic Center to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Troy University.

The walk was just the icing on a cake that had been baking for a while, after Johnson received confirmation she would be graduating.

“I can’t explain it. I just started crying,” Johnson said. “I was just excited, so glad. It was a relief.”

She started taking college courses in her 20s, but the cost and responsibilities of daily life kept her from achieving her ultimate goal.

In recent years, she began focusing more heavily on finishing her degree, culminating in her graduation.

“Anybody that can go back to school after you reach my age, if you can, go back, because there’s a lot out there to learn,” Johnson said. “And don’t give up, because there’ll be times you’ll want to give up. Hang in there, believe me, and when you get to the end of the tunnel, there is light at the end of that tunnel.”

Along the way, she learned plenty of useful lessons.

“If you haven’t been to school in a while, don’t try to take a full (course) load,” Johnson said. “Take one subject at a time until you get back in the study habit.”

Oh, and about that perseverance — she’s not done yet.

After some time to rest and enjoy herself, she’s got another goal she plans to pursue.

“I’m going to take a break. I might even take a whole year,” she said. “But I’m planning on pursuing that master’s degree.”

Irene Whitehurst Johnson and Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr.

Irene Johnson of Enterprise gets a hug from Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., during commencement for the Dothan Campus on May 15. At age 75, Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, completing a college journey that started more than 50 years ago. (TROY photo/Clif Lusk)