90-year-old woman becomes oldest person to complete master's degree at Texas university

Payne was born to uneducated textile workers in South Carolina.

90-year-old woman becomes oldest person to complete master's degree at Texas university
The University of North Texas
December 19, 2023, 6:15 PM

Despite graduating high school in 1950, 90-year-old Minnie Payne of College Station, Texas, decided she wasn't ready to hang up her academic career quite yet.

Last weekend, Payne walked across the stage at the University of North Texas commencement ceremony, accompanied by her grandson, in order to receive her master's degree in interdisciplinary studies, becoming the oldest graduate to complete her coursework and earn her degree at the university at any level.

The school told ABC News it was aware of one person who had received a degree at an older age, but had completed the coursework at a younger age.

"I have always tried to better myself," Payne said in an interview with ABC News. "When you gain an education, you better yourself and you better those around you. And, of course, you gain knowledge. And I know a lot more now than I did to begin with."

Payne grew up in poverty in a South Carolina textile community and graduated high school in 1950.
The University of North Texas

Payne credited her professors and academic adviser, Billy Roessler, Ph.D., for their support throughout her studies.

"Minnie was very dedicated to her work," said Roessler, who serves as assistant dean of graduate studies at the university's Toulouse Graduate School. "She was committed throughout the program to ... getting the education and the knowledge and skills that she desired."

Payne said education was not an instrumental part of her childhood, having been born into poverty in South Carolina to uneducated textile workers.

Editor’s Picks

She said her parents "did not realize the value of an education, so I had no one to help me or encourage me."

"I lived in a very small world," Payne said. "We were poor, but we didn't realize we were poor because everybody else was in the same boat."

After graduating high school in 1950, Payne held many different jobs across several industries, working as a court reporter, a transcriptionist and a substitute teacher, among other things.

After retiring from a more than 30-year career as a transcriptionist, Payne said she wanted to do something constructive with her life. She ultimately received her undergraduate degree from Texas Woman's University at age 73.

PHOTO: Minnie Payne completed the coursework for her master's degree at the age of 90.
Minnie Payne completed the coursework for her master's degree at the age of 90. masters and doctoral commencement ceremony. Photographed on Dec. 15, 2023 (Ahna Hubnik / UNT)
The University of North Texas

Given her career background in writing, she decided she wanted to continue to work with words.

"When I earned my undergraduate, I immediately started work as a writer, and for about 16 years between my undergraduate and master's program, I wrote and copy edited. I was not idle," she said.

Payne was also determined to continue her education journey after that, and she focused on writing in the pursuit of her master's degree.

While commencement ceremonies have concluded for the semester, the celebrations aren't over for Payne and her family: Payne's two grandchildren will both be earning degrees in May.

"This is a big year for us," she said.

Related Topics

Trending Reader Picks

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events

news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news