Janet Fein spent decades raising five children and working as a secretary before she finally retired at 77. After spending so many years helping other people, Janet decided that in her retirement, she would go back to school to earn a degree.
Now 84, Janet just accomplished her goal by graduating from the University of Texas at Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
“I didn’t have anything to do in retirement and I didn’t think that playing bingo was up to my speed,” she said, adding that she chose to major in sociology because she finds the subject to be “substantial.”
“With each class I already knew a lot, but then I also learned a lot. And that made me happy,” Janet continued.
Janet said that she went after her degree “with all of my heart” even as she transitioned from living alone and driving herself to living in a care home and needing oxygen and a walker to get around. At one point, her knees even gave out, so she did a semester of independent study and took online classes to fulfill her degree requirements.
“She did not give up in the midst of her challenges … she just kept plugging along,” said Janet’s college advisor, Sheila Rollerson.
“She would speak up a lot in class and I think that it just made for a more interesting class … because she literally remembered some of the times we were talking about,” added Carol Cirulli Lanham, a senior lecturer in sociology.
Renee Brown, a 53 year-old certified nursing assistant who is one of Janet’s caregivers, said that she now plans to enroll in a program to become a licensed vocational nurse inspired by Janet.
“She said, ’Renee, you can do it. If I can do it you can do it and you will feel so good about it,”’ she said.