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Perseverance, passion for learning drives 75-year old graduate

by UofL Today last modified Dec 15, 2010 01:14 PM

When Carrol Blevins steps onto the stage to receive her diploma at the University of Louisville's Dec. 16 commencement ceremony, it will mark the end of a long journey.

Perseverance, passion for learning drives 75-year old graduate

Carrol Blevins

The 75-year old psychology major never gave up hope that she would — someday — earn a college degree. Her journey wasn’t easy. Along the way, she overcame learning disabilities and learned to ignore advice she was given five decades ago that suggested women should pursue marriage instead of college.

UofL psychology professor Edna Ross, who met Blevins several years ago, was struck by her fierce commitment to learn “no matter what.” Despite significant hearing loss in both ears and apparent dyslexia, Blevins will graduate magna cum laude with a grade point average of 3.8.

“She would sit through a lecture perhaps two or three times just to be sure she heard everything,” said Ross. “She perseveres past adversity.”

Blevins knows a thing or two about adversity. The first school she attended was a two-room schoolhouse with no running water. By the time she was a senior in high school, her excellent grades translated into a college scholarship. But she was crushed to learn that the scholarship would be given to one of the boys in her class.

The reason?

“The school principal said the scholarship should go to one of the boys in my class because they have to earn a living,” she said.

Blevins accepted her fate and got busy with life. She married, raised three sons and cared for her elderly mother. Her husband, Donald Blevins died in 1985. She didn’t revisit her dream of a college education until the 1990s when she began taking classes through Kentucky Educational Television (KET). She soon become KET's poster child for lifelong learning and was featured on television commercials and other advertising.

In 2000 she started taking classes at UofL. Her humor, friendly demeanor and passion for learning soon caught the attention of classmates and faculty. Before long, Blevins became an icon of sorts for the College of Arts & Sciences.

“Everybody over here knows her,” said Ross. “She inspires everyone she meets.”

Blevins embraced college life enthusiastically. She took a fencing class, became a key organizer for “Psychology Day,” a campus-wide event to showcase careers in psychology and related fields, and was a two-term president of Psi Chi, the university’s international honor society for psychology.

She approached academic research with the same enthusiasm and curiosity and worked with the former chair of the psychological and brain sciences department, Dennis Molfese. The research focused on identifying learning disabilities in infants. Molfese, who now is at the University of Nebraska, was so impressed with Blevins that he called her “the most phenomenal student that I have had the good fortune to meet.”

“Carrol’s is one of those stories of courageous perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” Molfese said. “Her graduation is an important achievement for anyone, yet for her it is extra special because of the journey that she took to get to the graduation stage.”

Blevins calls her years at UofL a “really good experience” and said she will continue her work as a substitute teacher in local schools.

“I’ve enjoyed it all so much,” she said. “Education is so important — you never stop learning.”

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