‘Never too late’ attitude for 67-year-old grad

oldest grad

When she decided to return to school in her mid-60's, Elizabeth Huffaker was worried she would be met with a “What are you doing here?” attitude. But that didn't stop her from a long overdue college education. What she found at the University of Washington Bothell was quite the opposite.

Instead, “I met so many young people who treated me as equals and at the same time respected me,” she says.
Students she met in a first-quarter class remained friends throughout her time at UW Bothell.

Huffaker completed work in December for a bachelor’s degree from the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. The 67-year-old is the class of 2016’s oldest grad.

Huffaker says her major in society, ethics and human behavior answered some questions she had had since growing up and living in Minnesota, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“There I lived a safe suburban life while the equal rights, women's and AIDs epidemic movements happened around me. Without a historical perspective, I instinctively believed in human rights but did not understand the daily experience of being diverse in the United States,” Huffaker says.

Her interests were largely put aside while she raised a family – as a single mother after her divorce. Later in life, after cancer treatment, she decided “it was time to do what I wanted – go back to get my degree.”

“When I read the UW Bothell's information on the society, ethics and human behavior major and human rights minor, I knew it would perhaps answer some of the questions I had from my early years,” she said.

At UW Bothell, Huffaker found support from “young women of diversity who welcomed and accepted me.”

“I was amazed at their open honesty,” she said.

Huffaker also has particular appreciation for three professors: Julie Shayne, Bruce Kochis and Alice Pedersen.

“The challenges of their high expectations took me beyond my self-inflicted limitations,” says Huffaker, who graduated cum laude.

Her “never too late attitude” is something Huffaker taught her own children.

“You’re not locked into any one thing, one identity, one job,” she says. “As you change, you can change.”

Her advice to other people who are considering earning a degree later in life is, “Go for it!”
“If you are open to it, you will learn a lot from the younger students.”

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