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Meet IU Northwest 2015 Grad Jackie Neal: Never too old to learn

Monday Jun 29, 2015

The often clichéd proverb that one is never too old to learn perfectly fits Jackie Neal, who, at 74 years old, was the oldest graduate from IU’s spring 2015 class.

Neal, a longtime resident of Chicago and Gary, Ind., enrolled at IU Northwest in 2010 and is now in her final week of classes, wrapping up a bachelor’s degree in general studies with certificates in labor studies, Latino studies and African-American studies.

After nearly 30 years as station manager at WBEE jazz radio in Harvey, Ill., Neal retired in 2003 to Gary. She’s enjoyed her time off since then, spending it with her children and grandchildren, but she grew restless.

“It’s good for me to keep my mind busy,” she said. “There’s so much to do other than sit at home, and I enjoy stretching myself.”

The classes she’s taken at IU Northwest have sparked new interests for her, she said. “I found a couple of the classes just by chance when I was going through the course catalog. And it’s turned into something fruitful, something you can really sink your teeth into and understand.”

She said it’s gratifying to pursue some of her interests that she hadn’t had the chance to appreciate until now.

“I took a class in African-American studies a while back, and it really struck close to home for me because it talked about the public aid system and what used to be back in the day,” said Neal, who’s African-American.

After commencement Thursday, May 14, she plans to join in celebration with her great-grandson and great-granddaughter, who are moving on to high school and elementary school, respectively.

She hopes to find part-time work in office management, she said.

“I had my period of sitting down and relaxing,” she said. “But that’s what made me get up and get out,” she added with a laugh. “It’s turned out really well, and I really am pleased to finish up.”

-- Contributed by April Toler

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