Howard, Graduates, Doctoral Student

83-Year-Old Woman Graduates Howard As Oldest Doctoral Student

Marie Fowler commenced her doctoral studies at Howard University's School of Divinity after being out of school since 1959.

Marie Fowler, 83, has achieved an extraordinary milestone: she is Howard University’s oldest doctoral graduate.

Fowler’s journey to this accomplishment spanned three years of dedicated coursework at Howard University’s School of Divinity after being away from academics since 1959. According to WJLA, Fowler’s pursuit of her degree was more than just an educational endeavor; it was a calling from God that inspired her return to the academic world following the completion of her bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, which she earned from the Maple Springs Baptist Bible College and Seminary.

“It was never my thought that I would go beyond maybe one semester…I didn’t even know if I could retain information,” said Fowler, who admitted to worrying about financial resources at this stage of life. However, it was the experiences of her parents that motivated her to carry on with her academic journey. “My mom and dad were born in an era when it was illegal for them to learn to read and write,” she said. “We taught my dad how to read and write and how to sign his name so he wouldn’t have to put that X.

According to Howard University, its School of Divinity aims to integrate spiritual and religious teachings with immersive scholarly experiences. “Like the rest of Howard University, [the School of Divinity] is committed to developing scholars and professionals who lead change, help to solve the world’s problems, and embody truth and service in all that they do,” Yolanda Pierce, former dean for the School of Divinity, said in 2023.

Since the pandemic, the School of Divinity has witnessed a shift in students’ goals, with many seeking to pursue social justice work, policy roles, or nonprofit endeavors, indicating a broader scope of outreach and messages.

Fowler’s completion of divinity school positions her to better teach and share her knowledge and message. At 83, she hopes to serve as an inspiration that “it is never too late” to pursue one’s goals.