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Master of the Ages

Caroline Purtell

When Dora Jordan, a former schoolteacher and guidance counselor, retired to Florida in 1985, she struggled to find ways to fill her time. By age 82, she realized she wasn’t doing much of anything. “I got to thinking about how I had been blessed to be of this age and with my mind still functioning, and I just prayed. My prayer was, ‘Lord, please don’t let my body outlive my mind.’ And then one day a little voice said, ‘Well, why not? You’re not doing anything with it.’ ”

Although she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University decades earlier and a master’s degree from Xavier in 1972, she suddenly felt an urge to go back to school. So she enrolled at Howard University and for the next two years studied and lived in the dorms. She admits that despite mastering demanding coursework, using the computer never came easy and she had to ask others to type her papers. Last spring, she graduated at age 84 with a Master of Arts degree in religious studies. And she’s not finished.

“I feel like if I don’t get my Ph.D., I didn’t finish what I should have. If I live long enough, I can get it; if I don’t, I can be working on it. I feel like that would be the kind of legacy I could leave—that it’s never too late to accomplish your dreams.”

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