84-Year-Old Undergrad Becomes Master in Perseverance

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the summer 2019 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
When Janet Fein BA’18 could no longer drive herself to UT Dallas, she used public transportation. When she could no longer use a walker to get to class, she switched to a wheelchair. And when her health declined and she had to move to an assisted living center, Fein took independent study classes from home.
The 84-year-old refused to let anything keep her from completing her bachelor’s degree in sociology, which she earned from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, thanks to hard work and heroic levels of perseverance.
“You’re never too old to keep on learning,” the grandmother of eight said.
Graduating from college had been a longtime dream for Fein. She married and raised five children after finishing high school in 1951. Her late husband, Howard, was in the Army during the Korean War. Afterward, the family moved several times for his job.
Fein enrolled in a few community college courses in the 1970s and finished her associate’s degree in arts and sciences from Richland College in 1995. In 2012 Fein transferred to UTD after receiving a scholarship.
She also was granted a state tuition waiver that allows people 65 and older to take up to six hours each semester with no tuition costs.
The new student was 78 and had just retired from her job as a secretary at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.
“I didn’t know if I could do it,” Fein said. “The standards at UTD are high. I didn’t know if I could meet them or not, but I found that I could.”
Fein took classes in religion, immigration and political science. She maintained a 3.2 GPA despite juggling school with doctor’s appointments and a hospitalization.

“I was accepted, and the younger people were very friendly to me.”
– Janet Fein

She said her professors were understanding, and the Office of Student AccessAbility provided accommodations, even moving classes to more accessible locations when necessary.
Through it all, Fein said she always felt welcome on campus. One of her professors and her classmates even threw her a birthday party last year.
“I was accepted, and the younger people were very friendly to me,” she said. “They never felt that I was too old.”
Fein’s health problems came close to forcing her to stop just a couple of semesters short of a degree.
“I couldn’t drive anymore, and I couldn’t go to school and thought I’d have to give it up,” she said.
Fein learned that she could get rides from her assisted living center to campus through a DART service for people with disabilities. Wearing oxygen tubes and a portable oxygen system, she used a walker to get to her classroom until she needed a wheelchair.
“I’m so impressed with her hard work and determination,” said Meryl Fein, her daughter-in-law. “She has made it happen any way she can.”