HEBER SPRINGS — A 20-something with a Starbucks cup in one hand, an iPhone in the other and wearing a school-mascot sweatshirt and jeans might describe the “typical” college student, but at 83 years old, Marjorie Peterson is the opposite of what someone would envision as a recent college grad.
On Dec. 12, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Arkansas State University-Beebe. Her degree was through an advanced program that connects ASU-Jonesboro class offerings with the ASU-Beebe campus.
She is the oldest person to have graduated from ASU-Beebe.
Right after she graduated from high school, Peterson went to work and continued to work for most of her life.
“I worked on and off,” she said.
She grew up in Iowa, and then found herself moving to Virginia with her husband, then to Arkansas, where the two stayed. She and her husband moved to Heber Springs 45 years ago.
“I’ve found that the place really doesn’t make a difference; it’s the people,” Peterson said.
After her husband died, she found herself looking for something to do.
“I had a job, and I lost it because of the economy,” she said. “I did all of this looking for a job, and the Workforce Division suggested I go to college.”
A college degree was something Peterson said she had never considered.
“At first I thought I didn’t want to, but my daughter encouraged me to,” Peterson said. “I tried it, and it turned out to be a lot of fun.”
In August 2009, Peterson enrolled at ASU-Heber Springs, a satellite campus of ASU-Beebe. She said getting back into the groove of a school routine wasn’t too difficult.
“I had lost my husband not too long before that, and I was quite lonely,” she said. “It gave me something to do: a purpose. It got me out of the house and got me some exercise.”
She spent 2 1/2 years at ASU-Heber Springs earning two associate degrees.
“I took five semesters [at ASU-Heber Springs],” she said. “I got my associate’s of liberal arts, and I only had a few more classes to have an associate’s in science.”
After Peterson received her second associate degree, she found herself in the Bachelor of Science in business administration program at ASU-Beebe.
She decided on business because she thought it would be interesting.
“I was a full-time student and took five to six classes a semester,” she said.
Peterson’s college experience proved to be enjoyable for her, she said.
“All of the younger students were very respectful toward me,” she said. “The young men would open the door for me and that sort of thing. That doesn’t happen often. They were very nice.”
Peterson said her teachers made her college experience worthwhile.
“Almost every one of my teachers were the age that they would be my children,” she said. “They were very nice to me — every one of them.”
Peterson said graduating with her bachelor’s degree was special to her.
Though graduation for most college students means job hunting and starting work, Peterson said she’s thinking about maybe taking another class or two.
“I enjoy learning,” Peterson said. “If I do anything else, I’ll probably get a bachelor’s in accounting, and I may not do that.”
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.