The Journey of Life – Sometimes Forward Leads You Back

Born in 1934, Rosemary (Born) Lloyd ’22 becomes Marian University’s eldest graduate. This intelligent and driven lifelong learner ripped up her first printed Marian report card after seeing her grades. Steadfast in her pursuit of knowledge and an unwillingness to quit, Rosemary’s story of tenacity is similar to most college students – except that Rosemary was 88 years old before she saw her name printed on a college diploma!

Life is an Education

Besides a short detour to Arizona, Rosemary spent the majority of her adolescence growing up in Fond du Lac. She attended St. Joe’s School through ninth grade and discovered her love for reading – and books! After that, Rosemary excelled at St. Mary Springs where she graduated in 1953. Her mother also attended St. Mary Springs as a boarding student.

Rosemary’s mother, widowed in her early 30s, graduated from the St. Agnes Hospital School of Nursing and was the head registered nurse at St. Agnes Hospital’s maternity ward for years. Her mother wanted Rosemary to continue her education, but it was really the cajoling of four dear friends: Peggy Thurman, Marjorie Ottery, Joan Wimberger, and Rosie Scharf that led Rosemary to enroll in classes at Marian University (formerly Marian College). She was excited to learn from the Sisters again and had historic roots on the quaint campus. Her Aunt, Sr. Mary Daniel was part of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (CSA), the founding Order of the University.

Rosemary aspired to be the next Sr. Imogene Palen. Sr. Imogene was one of Marian’s first professors. Throughout the years she taught math and science, specializing in microbiology.  Inspired by Sr. Imogene’s passion for scientific research, Rosemary began working as a Medical Technologist at the Lab in St. Agnes Hospital and enrolled in a number of science courses during her first year of college. Her $0.35/hour salary went towards tuition. At $5/credit, she found her first year’s tuition ($45) was affordable.

A Career is Born

Frustrated by the academic struggles of her first year in college, Rosemary ripped up her report card and flushed it down the toilet. She always had a vision for her future but was filled with self-doubt. Nonetheless, she persisted and believes Marian University and the Sisters saved her life. She credits Sr. Muriel Tarr with changing the trajectory of her academic journey. Sr. Muriel recognized that Rosemary was struggling in her science classes and helped her pick new classes. One of those classes was children’s literature with Sr. Francis Assisi and this class remains one of her favorites. Born from this chapter, Rosemary discovered her passion for teaching – something she definitely had in common with Sr. Imogene.

Beginning her teaching career in Lamartine, Ms. Born taught ten children ranging from grades K-8. It was a small and rural school with outdoor plumbing. After two years, she accepted an offer to teach in Brandon which promised a bigger space, additional teachers, and the luxury of indoor plumbing! After two years, she began teaching at Banta Elementary School in Menasha. Altogether, Rosemary taught for eight years under her personal mission: “My idea of teaching was to create curiosity and capture that desire to keep learning interesting.” Nearly seventy years later, her eyes shine bright with joy as she remembers every student, by name. In 2021, Rosemary was surprised by a visit from three of her second-grade Brandon students.

A Charmed and Wonderful Life

During this chapter, Rosemary fell in love with Bill Lloyd. She got to know Bill through her neighbor, Tommy Brickles. Tommy and Bill were friends and lived together at UW-Madison while Bill completed his MBA. After marrying the love of her life in 1959, the newlyweds began a life of traveling. A chemical engineer, Bill worked for Kimberly Clark. His career led them throughout the United States and internationally to England, Thailand, France, and across the globe.

Rosemary continued her education at Marian for a decade, mostly part-time. She ­spent two years taking continuing education credits in art history at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. Altogether, she earned 120 college credits, but her college diploma still eluded her. Her entrepreneurial spirit led her to build a business selling clothing and make-up. It was a new way to continue her love of teaching. One of Rosemary’s favorite fashion tips remains: “If you don’t like it [clothing], get it out of your closet – life is too short and you should dress your best.”

Despite many relocations, Bill and Rosemary always returned home to Neenah. In 1992, the couple moved to the newly reconstructed Historic Fox River Mills apartments where they spent two decades together. Friends had planned a 50-year anniversary party in 2009, but unfortunately, Bill passed away unexpectedly before this special milestone.

Unfinished Business

Rosemary couldn’t accept coming this far and not finishing her college degree. Her fondness for Marian University led her back early this year to finish what she started in 1953.

Tracey Marx, Director of Adult and Online Studies, was thrilled to help Rosemary complete her academic journey. “When I initially reviewed Rosemary Lloyd’s academic transcripts, I knew immediately the Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) Program would be a perfect fit to complete her Bachelor’s,” said Tracey. “This program is specifically designed for lifelong learners like Rosemary who have earned significant college-level credit and have amassed a wealth of experience in learning outside of the classroom.”

Upon transcript review, Tracey discovered Rosemary only needed one course – a senior capstone – to complete her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies and worked with her on an individualized completion plan. “Rosemary is a gifted storyteller, so I was delighted to offer her the opportunity to complete the course with me in an oral interview format,” said Tracey. “Through our interview sessions, Rosemary revealed, story by story, how she has employed interdisciplinary problem-solving and critical thinking skills throughout her professional life, first as a classroom teacher and later as an entrepreneur and businessperson.”

Her life of travels exposed Rosemary to a variety of multicultural perspectives, another fundamental element of Interdisciplinary Studies. “Rosemary has been a remarkable student on both an intellectual and personal level, and I am so glad I could play a small role in completing her educational journey!” said Tracey.

The Story She Continues to Write …
Celebrating Rosemary

One month before the December commencement ceremony, Marian University President Michelle Majewski, along with others of the Marian leadership team, presented Rosemary with a framed diploma at the special place she called home for thirty years. Surrounded by the love and support of family, friends, and former students, Rosemary donned a royal blue cap and gown that her sister’s family sent her.

Holding the stage and captivating her audience, Rosemary’s light shined bright and tears filled her eyes as she embraced this dream-come-true experience. She proves learning is worth the investment at all ages. Though it would be 69 years before Rosemary returned to college, she inspires everyone to remember the title of a favorite book, “It’s Never Too Late, If You Start Right Now!”

As for what she plans to do next, Rosemary laughed and said, ‘perhaps I will merely and merrily rest on my laurels.’ Though she may not be pursuing another degree, Rosemary will continue to learn, and next up is “how to use the HP Sprocket photo printer.” After all, she needs to send a graduation photo to her sister, Mary Katherine, who lives in South Carolina. The quick-witted college graduate giggled as she shared, “My sister graduated from Marian College, and I can’t wait to show her I graduated from Marian UNIVERSITY!”

Marian University’s Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, a great option for creative thinkers, allows students to explore and make connections between a wide variety of ideas, methods, and ways of thinking. It’s so much more than an adaptable liberal arts degree – it’s an appeal to adventurous spirits who crave deep learning and transformative experiences. Visit our website to learn more.