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90-Year-Old Woman Receives Master's Degree From UNT

Minnie Payne is the oldest student at the university to successfully finish the program

Minnie Payne made history by obtaining a master's degree at age 90. She now holds the distinction of being the oldest student at the University of North Texas to successfully finish her coursework.

According to UNT, Payne officially completed the interdisciplinary studies degree program in July 2023. 

“I took it day by day,” Payne, who finished the program online, told UNT. “I knew that I was bettering myself and my family, and I was doing something I enjoyed and something constructive. I was improving my life. Every day I try to do something to improve my life and those around me.” 

Born to uneducated mill workers in South Carolina, Payne completed high school in 1950 and briefly attended junior college before embarking on a career as a clerk at a real estate firm.

In 1961, Payne married her late husband Dale and served as a court reporter for the South Carolina Industrial Commission until the birth of their two children. Following several years as a stay-at-home mom, she reentered the workforce as a substitute teacher. The family underwent multiple relocations, including moves to Virginia and Mississippi, before finally establishing roots in the Carrollton area, where they resided for three decades.

At the age of 68, Payne concluded her three-decade-long career as a transcriptionist and word processor and decided to pursue education at Texas Woman's University (TWU). As part of her undergraduate program, she additionally enrolled in three journalism classes and a business course at the UNT campus. At 73, Payne graduated TWU with a bachelor’s in general studies in 2006. 

“I had always worked with words, and I had always liked to write, so I almost immediately went back to school,” said Payne. “I wanted to improve myself. Most writers write because they enjoy it. I do it because I love it. I do it because it’s therapeutic. I do it because it gives me something constructive to do.”

After making several more moves, Payne returned to UNT to earn a master of journalism degree. However, when some of her online classes transitioned to in-person sessions, she shifted her focus to pursue a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Even though she received her master’s degree, her learning journey is far from finished, saying, “In some way or another, I want to continue learning.”