76-year-old graduate from Ozone Park walks the stage after earning her bachelor’s degree

Oldest graduate
Photo courtesy of The College of New Rochelle

A senior woman from Ozone Park recently walked across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree, ending a journey that was 76 years in the making.

Born in Williston, South Carolina, Bettye Lee, 76, was raised by her grandmother. She moved to New York after high school, where she met her husband of 56 years, Melvin Lee Jr., and had four children. Lee and her husband also have eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

As she was raising her family, Lee postponed getting her bachelor’s degree. However, over the years education has been a part of her life. For 21 years, Lee worked for the New York City Board of Education in food service, retiring in 2007.  During that time, Lee taught adult Sunday school classes and also earned a certificate in Ministry from the New York Theological Seminary.

After getting encouragement from her children, Lee enrolled in the College of New Rochelle’s (CNR) School of New Resources Brooklyn Campus at the age of 72.

“After I retired, we planned to relocate to Florida, but my husband became ill, so we decided to stay,” Lee said. “You know, sometimes we make our own plans, but God knows better.”

This past May, Lee walked across the Beacon Theatre stage at CNR’s 111th commencement to receive her diploma. During the ceremony, Lee was among several graduates recognized by Dr. William Latimer, president of CNR, for their outstanding stories.

“I just can’t stop thinking about that day,” Lee said. “I’ll never forget walking across that stage.”

Lee thanked her faculty, staff and fellow classmates for inspiring her and her family for their support and patience while she was in school. Lee plans to use her degree to encourage her grandchildren to embrace education.

“I’m going to look back at this experience and wait to see what God has ahead for me,” Lee said. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.”