Darlene Mullins Completes College Degree 55 Years After She Started

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It’s never too late to complete a goal. That was certainly the case for 72-year-old Darlene Mullins who graduated from college after a 55-year-hiatus.

Mullins, a grandmother of four, received her degree from Tennessee State University when she graduated last weekend with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Mullins first began her study at TSU in 1962. But something–or someone got in the way.

“Love got in the way,” said Mullins who will celebrate 54 years of marriage in August.

She met fellow student John Mullins, from Illinois, who she described as dashing, handsome and “everything to behold.”

In 2014, she told Alumni Life, a campus magazine, “I thought he was the finest thing walking on the campus.”

Their relationship blossomed and the two were married a short while afterward. John stayed in school and graduated while Darlene took on the role of caring for their home and raising a family.

But it wasn’t just the education, she put on hold. There were also aspirations of becoming an Olympic athlete.

“I came to TSU because I ran track. I wanted to go to the 1964 Olympics. Wilma Rudolph was my idol and I was on my way. I get to TSU and meet the great coach (Ed) Temple, but we bumped heads because I had to make a choice between his track team or Mr. John Mullins.”

She chose John and the two went on to have two children, several grandchildren together. When her children got older, Darlene worked in retail and cosmetology.

Meanwhile, John worked in the corporate world and government agencies before starting his own marketing and advertising agency called Lions Group, Inc in Dallas, Texas.

Despite the family’s success, Darlene said she never forgot about her education.

“Something kept nagging at me. 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 Darlene decided that she wanted to go back and earn her degree, John did not hesitate.

“I love this woman so much and always told her whenever you are ready we will go because this is something I knew she always wanted and I will do nothing to hold her back,” John said.

In 2013, the couple moved back to Tennessee to allow Darlene to return to campus and classes. She took as many as 20 credit hours and maintained great grades.

“My goal was to come back and finish at Tennessee State. I didn’t know at the time how long it was going to take, I just knew I had to do it,” she said.

Darlene completed her coursework in four years and graduated summa cum laude.

“My graduation from college, for me, confirms that I completed what I started more than 50 years ago,” Darlene said. “I am happy.”

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