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Utahn has career, then a degree

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2008 12:15 a.m. MDT

Hermine Horman, 82, will mix with "youngsters" at BYU commencement.

Ashley Lowery, Deseret News

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PROVO — Most people start by earning a college degree, move on to an internship, then build a career by wading through years of "paying dues."

Hermine Horman isn't "most people."

"I made my career first, then I learned how to do it," said the 82-year-old author, editor and publisher.

Today, after 60 years in the writing and editing business, Horman will graduate with a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University.

Horman started taking classes at BYU in 1948 but had to drop out after just two semesters because she couldn't afford tuition. She was inspired to finish, she said, by her seven children, who all attended college after high school.

"One day it hit me, 'This is ridiculous, my kids are more educated than I am,"' she said. "I figured if they can do it, I can do it."

Horman is the oldest of the 2,138 students who will take bachelor's degrees home from BYU's summer commencement ceremony this year. The average age of this semester's graduates is 25.

The grandmother doesn't mind mixing with the "youngsters," though.

"I feel like a celebrity," she said. "I get to sit up on the stand next to President Samuelson."

She may have nabbed the "honorary" seat because she has knee trouble and can't walk as far as the other students, she said, with a sly wink, but Horman doesn't care either way.

"As long as they give me that diploma, I'm golden," she said.

Her excitement is understandable.

"I have never worked so hard for anything in my life," Horman said.

A year ago, Horman found a flier advertising BYU's Bachelor's of General Studies degree. The program allows former BYU students to finish up course work at home by taking independent study courses. Before she knew it, she was spending all her time in the basement of her Sandy home, reading, studying and typing.

"I quit cooking. I quit doing housework," she said. "My whole world for a year was sitting in front of that computer. I'd work from morning till night, most of the time putting in eight- to 10-hour days."

There were times she wanted to quit. Chemistry nearly killed her, she said.

"It was a pure modern-day miracle that I passed that class," she said. "I was so far out of the science scene, I didn't know what was going on. The teacher kept talking about splitting atoms and all I knew was split ends."

Learning the ins and outs of using a computer gave her quite a run for her money, as well. She'd stubbornly held onto her typewriter for years.

"I knew how to type, but when it came to footnotes and Google and all that stuff, I had to call for help," Horman said. "If my husband hadn't been here, I might have died."

Her family wouldn't let her give up, though. One son called every Sunday to check up on her progress.

It wasn't, after all, the first time Horman tried to go back to school.

When she was working as an editor for BYU's department of religious studies after her children were born, Horman tried to work on her degree in the evenings. At one point she was so sure she was going to graduate, she purchased a 1965 class ring. But the classes that fit her schedule amounted to "a bunch of underwater basket weaving," she said.

This time, she said, it's the real deal. And although she sometimes finds herself going through "withdrawals" from being away from her basement office for too long, she couldn't be happier to be finished.

"I feel really blessed to be where I am right now," she said.


E-mail: estuart@desnews.com

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