After 19 Years In College, Iowa Woman Will Graduate At Age 48

Apr 26, 2011

If you need a late-day pick-me-up this is it: Kathy Vitzthum took her first class at Iowa State University in 1992. She took — on average — one class per semester and 19 years later, she's graduating suma cum laude with a bachelor's degree in accounting.

"I've been doing this so long, I don't think I'll know how not to do it," Vitzthum told the school's news service. "It almost gives me anxiety to not know what I'm doing this summer."

It took Vitzthum so long to finish because she was juggling a full-time job and two kids, who were six and eight when she started. Vitzthum started going to school because her boss offered her a promotion if she took accounting classes. The years rolled by and she never thought a degree was in sight. Then she made her father a promise:

About that time, Vitzthum's father became ill with cancer.

"He said to me, 'You know Kathy, you're this far, why don't you just keep going and get your degree?'" Vitzthum recalled.

She lamented to him that she could be 50 years old when she finishes. Her dad said, "You're going to be 50 anyway, so you might as well keep going."

"I didn't really want to continue. But before he passed away, he made me promise to finish," she said.

On Friday, Vitzthum will lead the way as marshal at the College of Business' commencement ceremony. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit