79-year-old to complete undergraduate education after 50 yearsAffectionately and respectfully known as “Miss Betty” to her
classmates, graduating Harding University student Betty Fulop of
Athol, Idaho, is not your typical college senior. At 79 years old,
Fulop will receive her bachelor’s degree in the upcoming commencement
ceremony May 14 with her children, grandchildren and friends in
With a past marked by poverty, abuse and hardship, Fulop has overcome
countless obstacles to complete her undergraduate career. What takes
most students four years to accomplish has persisted for Fulop since
her first college semester in 1957. After dropping out of high school
for an early marriage, she earned 85 hours of college credit over the
next 50 years as a mother of five children, widowed wife of an abusive
husband, grandmother to 15 and great-grandmother to seven.
Since beginning her first semester at Harding in 2007, Fulop said she
has gained an appreciation for the things she has been exposed to,
such as history, sports and chapel, but she said her interaction with
students has especially encouraged her.
“I have enjoyed the younger people and have more respect and interest
in teenagers than I did before coming,” Fulop said. “I want to thank
them for being so good and kind to me and showing me the respect they
have. I like being called ‘Miss Betty.’”
Fulop’s devotion to service has taken her overseas to work with the
poor in Panama twice through Harding spring break campaigns. She will
graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in general studies but will
walk with the Bible Department due to her emphasis in Bible courses.
However, the education she has dedicated herself to is not for
herself; Fulop says she plans to use her education to serve women who,
like herself, are victims of abuse.
“I decided to go for a B.A. because when I inquired into working at a
shelter to help women who have been or are under abuse, I was told I
needed a B.A. and could then work as a paraprofessional,” Fulop said.
“I want to work with these women in the church and community after
She also plans to publish poetry, devotions, and child and adult
fiction after she completes her last semester at Harding.
“I love Harding and thank God daily — sometimes several times a day —
for being here,” Fulop said. “I have gained much peace, a troop of
wonderful friends, much needed skills, and more interesting but useful
knowledge than my head can hold. To be about to graduate is the most
thrilling thing I have ever experienced, as I have never been in cap
and gown before. I feel like I did at the age of 7 just before