Mae Beale, an 82-year-old retiree, just earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC).

Beale decided to return to school in her late 70s, according to a news release from the school. She received her diploma May 18, the day after her 82nd birthday, reported CNN affiliate WJLA.

In her younger years, Beale worked as a licensed practical nurse in Washington, DC, the release noted. While working at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, she helped plan several large events, which inspired a career pivot.

In 1994, at the age of 54, Beale started her own event-planning business and started working toward her associate degree in Business Management at Howard Community College, according to the release.

After completing the associate degree program, she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree, one class at a time.

“I wanted to make certain I had the time to devote to whichever class I was taking,” she said in the release. “I was like the tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race.”

“I discovered that I had to be intentional about it and make it my priority.”

Despite being older than most of her classmates, Beale was a star student. She graduated with honors and made the dean’s list several times during her time at UMGC.

Beale received her diploma alongside 3,300 graduates from the classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022, Bob Ludwig, assistant vice president of media relations at the university, told CNN. She completed her coursework in the class of 2020, but the school has not held an in-person graduation ceremony since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Beale, who participates in several local boards in Maryland as a community advocate, told the university the degree has given her a greater sense of self-confidence: “I knew that if I had the degree, it would solidify things and make me feel more comfortable.”

And she encouraged others to pursue higher education with an open mind. “Expose yourself to as many possibilities as you can because you never know what life will present.”

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