CHICAGO (WLS) — In just a few days, Joyce Defauw will finally don her cap and gown and officially walk across the stage at Northern Illinois University. It is a journey that began in 1951.
“I did 3.5 years and I quit,” Joyce said. “Meanwhile, I met this gentleman who stole my heart and eyes, we decided to get married.”
Joyce grew up in a small farming community on the outskirts of the Quad Cities, attending elementary school in a one-room school. A few years after dropping out of college to get married, Joyce’s life took another turn.
“We had three children, and then he passed away. I was a widow for five years,” Joyce said.
Joyce eventually remarried and had six more children. That college degree seemed further away.
“I was busy with the family from 55 when I got married until 2019,” Joyce said.
SEE ALSO | Julianne Sitch of the University of Chicago is the first woman to coach the men’s soccer team to the NCAA title
Joyce, now a grandmother of 17, said that while she didn’t think much about going back to college, it was always a wish.
I guess I told my kids I wish it was over a long time ago when… what’s stopping you now? I guess nothing,” Joyce said.
So with the help of her adult children, Joyce, no longer driving, began taking classes using a computer, she said, for the first time.
“I didn’t have one, I never knew how to use it, they got me one, that’s how I went to class,” Joyce said.
In four years of taking classes, Joyce was on campus just once, when Northern Illinois University honored students who performed well after the first semester. Now, she will return in person to finish the journey that began almost 70 years ago, with a message for others, like herself when she was younger.
“Do not give up. Even if you quit, come back,” Joyce said. “Just hang in there. Keep learning. Keep giving thanks. It’s there for you. Just do it.”
The start is on Sunday. There is no doubt that Joyce will be surrounded by family. She has 17 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren, with two more on the way. She said that she is full of thanks and praise for everyone in her life who made this possible.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All rights reserved.