With Age Comes Wisdom, An Interview with Carolyn Price, by Cece Lively

October 16, 2023

I meet many students working in online education, but after one special event on campus with the Baylor EdD program, I knew I had to sit down and talk more with one student in particular. Carolyn Price is a current student in cohort 11 of Baylor’s online Doctor of Education program. During the on-campus immersion, where students come to town to work on their dissertations, the speaker was filling some break time and asked who had been married the longest. Many hands flew up in the air, claiming 20 years, 25 years, then 40 years. Finally, a student claimed that Carolyn had them all beat with how long she had been married. Carolyn had never really admitted her age before to her cohort of fellow students, but she proudly proclaimed that she and her husband had been married for 60 years.  Immediately, the students erupted in awe and amazement at how that could even be possible.  She credited her marriage success to forgiveness, understanding, and the Lord.   

Carolyn Price was born into a farming family in northeastern Pennsylvania. She shared that “my family, the church, and the school - they were my whole life!”  Carolyn graduated high school and started thinking about college, but being from a small town, she didn’t know she should apply to multiple universities to better her odds of acceptance.  In the one rejection letter from her first choice of school, it was noted that she was not accepted because “at that time, they could only take a few students above the Mason-Dixon line.”  So, she went to college in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and worked hard for one semester.  She did more research on colleges and decided to transfer the second semester to Florida Southern, a small Christian college in Florida. It was there that she married her husband and had her first child before moving back to Pennsylvania. These events would be the start of her quest for lifelong learning.   
At 79 years young, Carolyn applied to two Doctor of Education programs with a Christian mission. She chose Baylor in part because of the age discrimination she faced when applying to another university. Her decision was made easier thanks, in part, to a previous experience she had at Baylor in 1979.   

Read Carolyn’s story in her own words as Cece Lively, Director of Portfolio Management for Graduate Professional Education sits down to discuss her journey.  

Cece: I would love to hear all about your background and any of your previous educational experiences.  

Carolyn: I was raised in a farming family in northeastern Pennsylvania. When I graduated from high school and went to college in Wilkes-Barre, PA for a semester, it really was not where I wanted to go. It was hard getting into college, and you're not going to believe this, but I had tried to get into Vanderbilt out of high school. I actually only applied to Vanderbilt. I was a high honor student with a 96 average and all kinds of extracurriculars, like cheerleading and music—everything you could imagine. I was devastated when I didn't get in, and so was my school counselor.  

Being from a rural area, we didn't know that I should apply to more than one school, Vanderbilt said they couldn't take me because they could only take a limited number of students above the Mason-Dixon line. Can you believe that?  So, for one semester, I went to a college in Pennsylvania near where I lived, while I got my act together and did my research. I found Florida Southern College, an independent small college, affiliated with the Methodist church. All my degrees have been Christian-related, which was important to me.  

My husband and I were married in my junior year. He was coming out of the Marine Corps, and our daughter was born the following year.  We eventually moved back to Pennsylvania. My husband and I were both teachers and quickly went back to school to get our master's degrees. I got my master’s at the University of Scranton, which is a Jesuit university. At that time, I decided that I really wanted to make a bigger impact than I was making doing classroom teaching. With that as a goal, I was going to get my administrative degree. What followed was over 20 years in central administration, managing all the facets of running a school. I retired in 2002 as assistant superintendent in a small city school district in upstate New York and then I went back to my hometown and helped them as a business manager and consultant.  

Then another phase of my life jumped in; I called it learning a new thing! I took on a new job acting as a business specialist for a McDonald’s franchise for almost 14 years, while helping my son, who is a screenwriter and movie director on movies. Then I got involved in politics because nobody else in town wanted to be the town supervisor. So much for retirement!  

Cece: How did you hear about Baylor?  

Carolyn: One day I started seeing Facebook ads from Vanderbilt and Baylor doctorate degrees. I thought, hmm! This might not be a bad idea. But will I be accepted? I was 79 years old at that time.  I didn’t know, but I thought I would try. I started the process with both programs at the same time. Just after completing the applications and submitting my materials, the admissions counselor from Vanderbilt called and seemed to be reading from a policy book. She said, “This doctoral program is designed for people who are in their mid-career". She seemed to be insinuating that I was too old for the program as I was obviously not in the mid-career stage. I said, okay, thank you, and we continued with the discussion. Shortly thereafter, Baylor sent me a congratulations notice that I had been accepted. I said, you know what? There's no question. It's Baylor!   

Upon accepting my offer from Baylor, I called the Vanderbilt counselor back, and I said, I appreciate all the time you spent with me, but Baylor has offered me a place, and I'm going to take it. She said, Oh, congratulations! And that was the end of that. That was age discrimination, and without going into too much of my life, I've experienced quite a bit of discrimination because I've worked in positions, normally held by men both in education and in government. I try to always take the high road and that's what I did in this situation!  

Cece: What made you choose Baylor?  

Carolyn: Why Baylor? First, the reputation of the University. It was in 1979, that I attended a leadership management seminar at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. It was the first leadership management seminar put on by Delta Kappa Gamma, which is an international sorority for Women in education, which I've been a member for years. I was chosen as one of the first recipients to attend.  This meant that we had to drive from New York to Texas.  At that time a lot of the cars had no air conditioning, so my husband and son got up at midnight to start the trip back home to get out of the heat before daylight! I was fortunate that I got to fly home a week later. Baylor was one of the best experiences of my career because I was just starting in all these Central Office positions. Those two weeks at Baylor gave me a background that other people did not have.  Throughout my career, people would often say to me, “Where did you learn all about leadership?” And I was proud to say Baylor’s School of Business.  

When I started applying to the Baylor EdD, that prior experience and program prestige flashed into my mind. I've also seen all the accolades associated with Baylor. I'm thrilled to know that Baylor is an R1 university which is important as a doctoral student.  In all, it was the academic reputation of the University, and then being a Christian university that was especially important to me. Even to this day, I'm just so pleased when I see messages from President Livingstone that include references to the Christian faith. When I'm at immersion, and somebody says a prayer to open a class, that all means a lot to me, and is why, throughout my education, I have chosen Christian-based programs.   

  The third reason I chose Baylor’s online EdD would be convenience. Looking at my career, you might say, why didn't I have my doctorate long ago? The real reason was a lack of convenience. Because I lived in a rural area, I would have had to attend Syracuse University which is an hour and a half drive each way, or to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is 3 hours each way. This was before online programs were available.  As much as I wanted to get my doctorate, with a job and kids, it was difficult. The convenience just wasn't there.   

  I admire the young women I see in this program, and I often talk with them about it.  They have young children, they have careers, but they can do this because online learning makes it accessible. This program makes it possible to juggle their learning and studying time while managing other responsibilities.   

Cece: What do you love about the EdD program?   

Carolyn: I'm thrilled with the program - I just love it. The lectures from the faculty are outstanding.  They not only know their subject matter, but they're also caring human beings who are concerned about us as people. I don't always find that, especially with professors.  

The program is very well organized. The book “Built to Last” is one of my favorite books— there is a quote from the book that says, “Good enough never is.” This quote keeps running through my mind as I watch the people involved with the EdD program. That's who they are.  They live the philosophy, good enough, never is. The fact that the program asks us for our opinions regularly and our input is used to continually improve the program really speaks to the notion that good enough never is. And in my opinion, that's why Baylor is an R1 university. I'm very proud to be a part of the community.   

Cece: Can you share a little about the moment you knew that it was a good idea to get your doctorate?   
Carolyn: I taught for 15 years in a leadership program at the State University of New York. I did not have a doctorate, but I had a master's degree. The University decided that they were not going to use lecturers who didn't have a doctorate any longer. Even though I was getting accolades from the students, it didn't matter - I could not continue teaching without my doctorate. If I was going to do college or university teaching in the future, I knew I needed it. After all my work in government and politics, I'm really interested in having a leadership position with the Department of Education in Washington, which I also need my doctorate for.  

When I came into the Baylor EdD program, I attended a webinar and I remember seeing an age range indicating that 66 was the oldest student at that time. I came in at the age of 79 and if I graduate in a year, I’ll be 82. I am pretty sure that makes me the oldest student! To me, age doesn't matter and the fact that my age has never been a question at Baylor has helped me reach this goal. It just makes me feel so good!  I will say that the technology has been challenging, but I have all kinds of help.  However, I have the advantage of experience. The first few courses I really didn't say much.  I didn't want to overwhelm my classes because I do bring so much experience. I think my fellow classmates know me well enough now to call on me when they need some of my wisdom to apply to our learning!  

This is just part one of Carolyn's journey.  GPE (Graduate Professional Education) will be sharing the rest of her story in a future post.  

About the author: Cece Lively serves as the Director of Portfolio Management for Baylor’s Office of Professional Education.