UT Tyler Nursing Student Graduates on Her 72nd Birthday

On her 72nd birthday, Mary Ruth “Ruthie” Graham graduated from UT Tyler’s nursing school.

“I’d wanted to complete college all of these years, and this was my opportunity,” said Graham, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing on Friday. “I knew it was my time.”

Graham’s earliest memory of being a nurse is dressing up when she was 6 years old, complete with a white dress and cap. Twelve years later, she graduated high school, married Richard Graham and helped him through his bachelor’s degree and Officer Candidate School.

During her husband’s nine years of active duty as a fighter pilot in the Navy, Graham gave birth to four children. She formed a bond with her bedside nurses and aspired to help other women as they had helped her.

She earned her RN license in 1994 and worked for 13 years in labor and delivery, while also helping her children obtain their degrees, including one RN license, four bachelor’s and two master’s and one currently in pursuit of her PhD.

“I saw my kids pursue their educational goals, and it inspired me to do the same,” Graham said. “They taught me that it was possible, that it could be within my reach too. I genuinely believe that anyone can complete college if they attend class and put their mind to it.”

She began her bachelor’s degree in 2016, taking one class per semester as she helped homeschool three of her six grandchildren.

“UT Tyler made the program very accessible,” Graham said. “I was able to take my classes from anywhere, in a camper, on a cruise ship, in my office or even lying in bed. I couldn’t have done it if the program wasn’t so flexible and the professors so understanding.”

On Dec. 8, she walked across the stage to receive her diploma.

“We are truly honored to celebrate Ruthie Graham’s extraordinary achievement,” said Dr. Barbara Haas, School of Nursing dean. “Her journey speaks to the power of determination and the pursuit of lifelong learning. She exemplifies the spirit of tenacity needed to achieve one’s dreams.”

One of Graham’s favorite quotes is, ‘She believed she could, so she did.’

“Keep going forward, one step at a time, and you’ll never regret where you end up,” Graham said.

Article from the Tyler Paper, tylerpaper.com.


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