I returned to college at 61

Returning to School

BA Psychology Student Deborah Pinger


For many years I told myself that not having a college degree didn’t hold me back.  When I left Sarah Lawrence, due to financial issues, I quickly moved up as a news reporter – from market #126 in Austin, Minnesota to #56 in Saginaw, to the #7 media market, WDIV-TV, Detroit. I was thrilled to be able to exercise my curiosity. Eventually, I anchored the morning “cut-ins” for the Today Show. Once I married, I moved with my husband to Cincinnati, where I reported news for WCPO-TV. After giving birth to our two children, I returned to work as a senior counselor in public relations. I was hired by a client to become president of one of his for-profit companies, and then executive director of two of his non-profit start-ups.

Along the way, I’ve always believed that not having a degree actually benefited me by giving me something to prove every day. I also knew I was in good company, with other college drop-outs like: Ted Turner, Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and so many more. But last summer, I had a conversation about Sarah Lawrence and I unexpectedly burst into tears. Something was very incomplete for me. And so, at age 61, I placed a call to Union Institute & University to enroll and get started.

What has surprised me is the quality of the education. Union is so much like my classrooms at Sarah Lawrence. There are few students in each class, around 15 or so, and each of us has powerful interactions with our professors and with each other. The courses are incredibly rigorous, with extensive reading lists and challenging assignments. We read aggressively, write a lot, and take tests regularly. I am thrilled with what I am learning. Like many other people my age, I am pulling it all together, making sense of my experiences, and finding that I generally live with an expansive sense of joy, love, compassion, faith and hope.

So, while I have aged, I am certainly not finished.  I hope to make a significant difference as I move forward – and this would not be possible without the professors and study I have engaged in at Union Institute and University. I am incredibly grateful.

Deborah Pinger is earning her BA in Psychology with a Concentration in Holistic Psychology at Union Institute & University. She selected Union because she could earn her degree online in a demanding program while maintaining a full-time work load.