Black Woman, 83, Becomes Oldest Person to Earn a Doctorate at Howard University

Marie Fowler, 83, has made history at Howard University, an HBCU in Washington, DC, by being the institution’s oldest PhD recipient.

Fowler attended Howard University’s School of Divinity for three years, believing it was a divine calling. She had previously received a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees from Maple Springs Baptist Bible College and Seminary.

Fowler confessed that returning to school was not an easy decision for her. But she claimed she sought guidance through prayer.

“It was never my thought that I would go beyond maybe one semester because, after all, I had been out of school since 1959,” Fowler told WJLA. “I didn’t even know if I could retain information.”

Despite initial doubts about her skills and finances, her parents’ experiences and her father’s encouraging words inspired her to push forward.

“My mom and dad were born in an era when it was illegal for them to learn to read and write,” Fowler recounted. Her father often said, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” which resonated with her.

Fowler’s strong attitude and determination left an indelible mark on her stay at Howard University. Dr. Alice Ogden Bellis, Professor of Hebrew Bible, described her as “the life of the party.” She said, “She knew what she wanted and she came here and she did that.”

Fowler is now prepared to teach and inspire others, having earned her doctorate in divinity.

“I want to say is that it is never too late,” she said. “I want everyone to realize that I am 83, which means if I can do it, why not you?”

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