BY Mark Babatunde, 12:04pm May 04, 2017,

African-American Grandmother Graduates from University 55 Years After Dropping Out

Darlene Mullins aged 72 is graduating summa Cum laude from the Tennessee State University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Photo Credit: Tennessee State University newsroom

Darlene Mullins, a 72-year-old African-American grandmother, will graduate from Tennessee State University (TSU) 55 years after she initially dropped out of the institution.

According to Tennessee State University Newsroom, Mullins, who is a member of three honor societies, is graduating summa cum laude.

“I am really looking forward to this,” says Mullins, who is scheduled to graduate on Saturday. “I am very excited and just overjoyed to see this day.”

Mullins will be among more than 800 graduates from various disciplines at the undergraduate spring commencement in the William Jasper Hale Stadium of the university’s main campus.

Focused on Love

In 1962, Mullins enrolled in to TSU, however, soon afterward she got entangled with matters of the heart: She fell in love with fellow student John Mullins, her husband of 54 years.

John and Darlene Mullins

John and Darlene Mullins will celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary in August. Photo credit: John Cross/TSU Media Relations

In an interview with a campus magazine, Mullins said, “Love got in the way,” and she had to put her studies on hold.

Following their courtship, the two were married a short time later. And while John stayed on and completed his college work, graduating in 1964, Darlene took on the role of caring for their home and raising a family.

Darlene adds that in addition to having to put her studies on hold, she also gave up on her dreams of becoming an elite athlete.

Wilma Rudolph

US athlete Wilma Rudolph shows the gold medal she won at the Women’s 100 meters Summer Olympic Games sprint event on September 2, 1960 in Rome, Italy. Photo credit: AP

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

Over the years, though, the Mullins have had plenty to be thankful for: Mr. Mullins went on to build himself a thriving business in marketing and advertising and Darlene built herself a successful career in retail and cosmetology.

The couple have two children Dr. John E. Mullins Jr. and Darchele Mullins. They also are blessed with four lovely grandchildren.

As a general rule to live by, Darlene always urged her children to complete whatever they started, but she says she knew in her heart that those words rang hollow if she didn’t set an example to her children and grandchildren to complete her college degree.

“Something kept nagging at me,” Darlene says. “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.”

So in 2013 Darlene and John moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to allow her to pursue a degree in Interdisplinary Studies, and her husband has been there to support her every step of the way.

John and Darlene mullins

Photo credit: The Tennessean

“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 says.

Sometimes taking on as many as 20 credit hours a semester, Darlene managed to maintain top grades, and in the end, she completed her college work in four years.

“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.

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

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: May 4, 2017


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