Just five days after turning 73, Beverly Kelley will receive her college degree.
On May 16, Kelley will receive a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, with a concentration in leadership and communication, during a commencement ceremony for Mercer University’s College of Professional Advancement in Atlanta.
And she’s not done yet.
The grandmother of seven plans to continue her college career at Mercer, pursuing a Master of Science in Human Services, so she can help children in the foster care system. She was drawn to human services after working at the Division of Family and Children Services and Division of Child Support Services in Henry County.
“Watching so many children go into the foster system, I just saw so much, and I wanted to get involved in human services,” she said.
Kelley attended class at Mercer’s Regional Academic Center in Henry County. She was a student ambassador and worked in the library.
Scott Mahone, director of center operations, said Kelley is “an extremely delightful and talented scholar.”
“We have had the blessed opportunity to observe her passion and love of learning first-hand,” he said.
Kelley said she felt like she was part of a family.
“I always felt comfortable. I felt I could reach out to them if I had an issue to discuss or family matters,” she said. “There was always someone here — more than one person — I could just sit and talk with to make myself feel comfortable.”
The coursework was challenging and informative. Her classes led her to better understand the world around her, she said.
“I learned so much,” she said. “I thought I knew a lot … but I did not.”
Kelley lives in Stockbridge now but spent most of her life in New Jersey.
She briefly went to community college, but after her father died, she dropped out to care for her ailing mother. Still, she had a 30-year career as an engineering support analyst, retiring at the senior level from Lockheed Martin.
Kelley and her husband, Harold Kelley, saw two daughters through college. The couple retired and moved to Georgia in 2003. Two years later, and after 40 years of marriage, Harold Kelley died.
Suddenly, Beverly Kelley needed something to do in this new season of her life.
“I’m not the type of person to just sit at home and do nothing,” she said.
She decided to apply to Mercer.
“I was kind of nervous about doing it because at my age — I think I was 69 when I applied at Mercer — I thought all the young people were going to be in class, and I felt kind of intimidated,” she said. “But once I started class, I was fine because it was not just younger people; they had all generations in there.”
She enjoyed working as a student ambassador, helping fellow students in the library find books or use the computers.
Mahone said Kelley approached every task with “enthusiasm and vigor.”
“At 73, she is a magnificent mentor and inspiration to all of us, and especially our younger adult students,” he said. “She relishes opportunities that enable her to support and inspire other adult learners to complete their degree programs.”
Because if she can, others can, too.
“I’ll be 75 when I graduate with my master’s, God willing,” she said.