72-Year-Old Darlene Mullins Just Graduated From College 55 Years After She Enrolled

Photo credit: John Cross/ TSU Media Relations 

If you ever need proof that it's never too late to go back to school, meet 72-year-old Darlene Mullins. She is a wife, mother, grandmother and a recent graduate of Tennessee State University (TSU). Mullins first enrolled at the historically Black university in 1962. She was a promising track star who had big dreams of making the 1964 U.S. Olympic Team. 

"Wilma Rudolph was my idol and I was well on my way", Mullins told TSU Newsroom. 

Then something happened that she didn't expect. She met the love of her life and soon-to-be husband, John E. Mullins, a senior at TSU. Mullins decided to quit the track team after the coach gave her an ultimatum to choose between the team and her boyfriend. She completed her freshman year, married John and then relocated to Dallas with him when he graduated from TSU in 1964. 

Photo credit: John Cross/ TSU Media Relations

Mullins went on to become a mother of two and an owner of a salon and spa. However, she still held onto her dreams of one day finishing school, and in 2013, she would make the first step to make her dream come true- she returned to Tennessee State University. 

"Something kept nagging at me," Mullins said. "I always told my children to make sure they finish what they started and I kind of felt it was time to live up to my own advice."

When Mullins told her husband that she wanted to go back to TSU and complete her degree, he was nothing but supportive. 

"She gave up everything for me," John Mullins said. "So now it was my time to follow her."

Mullins started off with one class, and then the following semester took 12 credit hours. From there, she took classes almost every semester, including maymester and summer. Mullins had to sit out for one semester due to knee surgery. Now, 55 years after enrolling, Mullins has graduated summa cum laude with a degree in interdisciplinary studies. 

Photo credit: TSU Media Relations 

"My advice about education, I try to tell the kids try to do it the first time," she said. "But if for any reason that you don’t, just keep going back, keep going back because it’s never too late."

Congratulations, Mrs. Mullins! Your accomplishment and words of wisdom are an inspiration to us all! 


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