71 Year Old College Student Says Life Has Come Full Circle

At the age of 71, Marilyn Heiner achieved her dream of receiving a diploma. Joanna Gagis talks with the Bergen Community College’s Valedictorian to discuss how her life has come “full circle” and how she encourages others to go back to school.

8/5/17 #613






"Welcome back. I don't usually make a habit of announcing my guest's age on the air, but my next guest is 71 years old, and just graduated as valedictorian of the Class of 2017 at Bergen Community College. She is Marilyn Heiner. Welcome to the program. Well, thank you for having me. It's... delighted. What an honor to be named valedictorian of the Class of 2017. Mm hmm. Yes. How did this all start for you? Oh. First of all, I must say, it's awesome. I feel like I'm still living a dream. And I would say my journey at Bergen Community started back in 2010. I always say that one Sunday, my husband and I were going into New York City to see a Broadway show, and out to dinner. And my world changed that day. My husband did not come home. So a coworker, who was going to Bergen at the time, she noticed the grief, the loneliness, felt that I needed something in my life. And she encouraged me to enroll for a class at Bergen Community. And I did that September. At that time, you had just started working at a Head Start program, right? I started in January. My husband passed in March. So it was a whole new... whole new world for me. And... so I started in September with a couple other of our coworkers. You went to Bergen Community College? Right. And I took psychology. Just one class at a time. Because I worked full time with infants and toddlers. And I got an A. I felt proud of myself that after all of these years, I could still do well in my studies. And... so I continued. One class a semester. And seven years later, I was still getting my A's. And then toward the end, it was like a challenge. What class is gonna bring me down? What is going to change? But even with algebra, you know, I had to take that algebra. And I had an amazing professor. And she got us all through it. And... So really the... and I want to talk about your life with Don, cause you had such a fun life together? We did. But so for you this was just something that you needed that came to you at the right time? Mm hmm. Did you know you would do so well? No. Absolutely not. Did you know that this would be someth...? When I first started, taking that first course, I didn't even know if I was going to finish. I didn't even know if I would take another course. And it was just... maybe because I got that first..."