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From the Graduation Files 2020: Graduation is a dream come true for students of any age

At 80 years old, Linda Rhine will celebrate years of hard work and dedication as she graduates with the Class of 2020

Cate Zenzen  | 

May 2020 Graduate Linda Rhine at the Lipscomb Online booth

The year 2020 is a big one for Linda Rhine. She retired from her second job of 22 years. She is about to become a great grandmother, and she will celebrate her 81st birthday this November. Yet perhaps the biggest reason for celebration is that this year Rhine graduated with a degree from Lipscomb University. 

“Everybody in my family has a college degree and I always wanted to go to college after high school,” said Rhine. 

A Nashville native, Rhine graduated from Cohn High School in 1957 and attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville for one year. She then transferred to Abilene Christian University, where she met her husband in chapel. The two were soon married and Rhine dropped out of college as they started their family of three children. Rhine and her husband were married for 37 years. 

“I tried to go back [to school] a couple of times and take some courses, but it always fell by the wayside. It was something I always thought I would do,” said Rhine. 

Linda Rhine in cap and gown holding a finished sign

Linda Rhine

Over the years, Rhine had been to Lipscomb University many times for the graduation ceremonies of friends and family. When she became interested in going back to college, the school was already on her radar.

“I Googled ‘adult education’ and found an informational meeting being held (at Lipscomb). I went to the meeting and thought I would take one course and see how it goes. I just loved it!” said Rhine. 

With a 50-year career behind her, working first at a bank and later as a receptionist at The Higgins Firm, a law office, Rhine is now happily retired. She began her studies as an on-campus student with a social work major, but later changed her major to organizational leadership, a program offered through the College of Professional Studies. 

She said she enjoyed attending classes with students much younger than herself (her usual partners in labs and group exercises were around 62 years younger than herself). Rhine shared how good it made her feel when one young classmate asked her to meet outside of class just to “pick her brain.” 

She also appreciated the relationships she built with her professors, such as one Bible professor who had the whole class over to his house for a spaghetti dinner and the faculty in the College of Professional Studies, who helped her navigate the world of online classes. 

Rhine’s college experience did not come without its challenges. Part of the reason she switched majors to a distance learning program offered by Lipscomb Online was because she feared she would not be able to handle the physical requirements of the social work experiential requirements in hospitals.

With her most recent education experience being 60 years ago, Rhine struggled with new subjects. In high school, she took only one semester of algebra and never any kind of science class. So some of the math and science courses at Lipscomb, particularly those with at-home labs, took some extra time for her. 

She had to carry her books with her in a rolling “backpack” because she didn’t have the strength to carry them thanks to past joint surgeries. Her failing eyesight made it hard to distinguish the right bubble to mark in the exam sheets graded by computers.

But through a combination of Rhine’s own motivation and the faculty’s willingness to work with her on schedules and methods to overcome her challenges, she completed, and enjoyed, all her classes at Lipscomb, and made quite a few A grades, she said. 

“It’s hard, but like they say, most things in life don’t come easy. I really feel good about myself that I passed these classes. One of my favorite courses at Lipscomb was psychology. I also really liked communications, where you learn to speak in front of people, because I’ve always been a talker,” she said. 

Thanks to her previous work experience, Rhine was also able to accumulate 30 hours, the most available, through Lipscomb’s competency based degree program, CORE, designed to recognize a student’s pre-existing competencies, knowledge, skills and abilities acquired through work experience and other learning opportunities. That credit allowed her to finish her degree in just over three years, even while taking only two classes per semester.

Linda Rhine in cap and gown photo in a graduation frame

Rhine began celebrating her graduation long before May 2. She took full advantage of the annual Grad Finale event where seniors pick out a class ring. Rhine said she wanted “the whole nine yards,” so she bought all the traditional products and got her photo taken in a cap and gown with a diploma holder. Good thinking on her part, as the university was later forced to close all on-campus activities for spring 2020 and to hold the graduation ceremony remotely.

She plans to display all her graduation swag on a wall in her dining room — right next to her diploma, the Grad Finale graduation photo and her tassel. 

“I tell you what, I sure have learned a lot these past three years. It has been the most amazing experience ever. It is something I never thought I would do, I never thought I could do. But I’ve done it and that makes me feel good about myself,” said Rhine. 

Rhine is excited to watch the graduation ceremony and celebrate virtually with the rest of her class. She plans to walk in the December 2020 commencement ceremony as well. 


READ MORE: Rhine describes her journey to her college degree in this 2018 story. 


The graduating class of 2020 will be honored through two virtual commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 2. The graduate ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. (CST) and the undergraduate ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. (CST). Both will be recorded and made available for later viewing online. These ceremonies will be streamed at