Donzella Washington dedicated her new degree to her late husband


An 80-year-old woman is hoping to remind others that age is nothing but a number after she made history by becoming her university’s oldest graduate.

Donzella Washington walked across the stage to get her bachelor’s degree in social work earlier this month at Alabama A&M University — an accomplishment she said was dedicated to her late husband, according to a release from the university.

“I wanted to finish in his honor,” she told Good Morning America of her late husband Jeff, who died in 2011.

She likely would have made him very proud, considering Washington graduated magna cum laude with a 3.64 GPA — and a 4.0 in her final semester.

Donzella Washington
Donzella Washington

Over the years, Washington and her husband fostered 32 children together at their home in California, and she worked at a police department and in a bank, according to a release from the city of Birmingham.

After Jeff’s death, Washington moved to Alabama to live with her daughter, and eventually started taking college courses at Lawson State Community College in 2013.

“Learning is just really fun,” she told Fox affiliate WZDX.

She earned an associate’s degree in 2017, but felt no need to stop there, eventually enrolling at A&M.

“Even though there was a lot of tears and late-night studying at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, I was determined,” she said in the release from Birmingham. “I never felt like quitting.”

Her daughter Kimberly Washington praised her persistence, telling WZDX that her mother is a fine example of “commitment and strength and perseverance and dedication and compassion and passion.”

“It’s never too late,” Washington told WZDX. “You have a dream, please finish that dream. You can do it. You just have to believe in yourself.”

Moving forward, Washington said she hopes to obtain a master’s degree, and will spend her time volunteering in places like nursing homes.

“I want to inspire and motivate others that age is not a barrier,” she told GMA. “And I want to emphasize the life between the dash.”