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Oldest, youngest graduates earn same prestigious degree

May 11, 2017
KOKOMO, Ind. — Two college graduates, 49-year age difference, same prestigious Indiana University degree.

Although Sally Roossien and Stephanie Shorter are decades apart in age and experience, they have one important factor in common — both are members of IU Kokomo’s Class of 2017. Sally is the oldest graduate in the class at 69, while Stephanie, 20, is the youngest.

When Sally graduated from high school in 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States; for Stephanie, in 2014, Barack Obama was president. Stamps in the mid-‘60s cost 5 cents each and gasoline was 32 cents per gallon. Just three years ago, stamps were 49 cents and gas averaged $2.89 a gallon. Sally listened to the tunes of the Beatles on her radio, while Stephanie downloaded Katie Perry on her iTunes playlist.

Both agreed that starting college is a daunting task at any age, but it is worth the time and effort.

“It was so scary,” Sally said, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. “I knew I had to do math, which I couldn’t do in high school. I knew I had to write papers, and I was scared to death. I found out it was easy. I don’t know why I made it so hard on myself.”

Stephanie enrolled shortly after graduating from Winamac High School, with the goal of being admitted to the radiography program because of a job shadowing experience at a local hospital. Now that she’s completed her associate degree, she’s already enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging Technology (M.I.T.) program.

“In high school, you have your family and friends around you, and you know everybody there,” Stephanie said. “Then you meet people and make friends. I was terrified about getting into my program. Sally’s program and mine are challenging, and you have to be selected to get in.”

Sally also was nervous, noting that she hadn’t been a good student in high school, and had worked and raised a family before enrolling in community college to become a registered nurse.

After earning an associate degree in nursing, Sally worked as a labor and delivery nurse, and began work on her B.S.N. In total, she spent seven years in college, and realizes she appreciated the experience more at a later stage in life.

“I don’t think I would have been a good student if I had gone right out of high school,” she said. “My thought was that someday, my employer might require a B.S.N., so why not work on it at my speed, in my own time? I just wanted to be prepared.”

She’s discovered a love of learning, and is considering returning for her master’s in nursing — but not right away.

“I’m going to take a short break, and then go from there,” she said.

Stephanie begins her M.I.T. program in a few weeks, to specialize in magnetic resonance imaging, or M.R.I.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” she said of earning her associate degree. “I never thought I would get it done in three years, and be fortunate enough to have a job in my field, and be continuing my education.

“You just have to take it one day at a time. Some days I didn’t know if I could get through the next day, or do everything that was due by the next week. You take it one day at a time, and you make it, and it goes so fast.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana

Last updated: 05/11/2017