It was a day 50 years in the making: Nancy Bassett, 71, graduated from college.
"I'm sure when I walk across the stage I'll feel like a 20 year old, just as young as the rest of them. Maybe a 30 year old," says Bassett, now a University of Memphis graduate.
Nearly 50 years ago, Bassett left after her first year of college, "I only had like a year of college and then I stepped out, I married my college sweetheart and I tried to help put him through college."
During the next few decades, Bassett started a family, interned at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., volunteered at multiple museums and organizations, and even started a Biblical history museum with her husband, Don Bassett. Her resume is five pages long, full of volunteer work and museum work.
Nancy says her husband is the one who always went back to school, receiving numerous college degrees. Finally, it was her turn: When the Bassetts moved to Memphis in 1995, Nancy started college at the University of Memphis the following year.
"When I first went back I thought, ‘Oh, I'll be the oldest one there.' No I wasn't! There were other people there my age," says Bassett, "If you come with a lot of age on you, you think, ‘Well I'm not going to fit.' But universities nowadays are just really… it's incredible that anyone can go back. You just have to take that first step."
She credits her college advisors and professors for her success, adding, "My first year of college I did not do that well, so I have had to drag that along with me and that's not been too good. All of my professors … they really – they don't cut you any slack – but they do want you to graduate, they do want you to succeed."
She says her professors went out of their way to help her, even in her toughest subject. "I was just terrified of math," recalls Bassett, "We didn't have calculators when I was in Algebra in high school. I was getting up at three o'clock in the morning thinking, ‘How can I learn this? How can I learn this?' And I would just go over and over it."
After 17 years, at 71 years old, Bassett is proof that you are never too old to go back to school.
"I started one class a semester and you just start chipping away. And you too at 71 can graduate," says Bassett, "They are exceptional, I think, at the University of Memphis in trying to get you to achieve your goals that you want to and I think they want to help you and especially senior adults."
Bassett graduated on Sunday from the U of M University College with a Bachelor's degree in Professional Studies with a concentration in Museum Management. It's a degree she was able to customize through the University College.