Barbara and family

Not long after her retirement, 75-year-old Barbara Bixby started to get restless. As she entered her golden years, Barbara’s vivacity and passion for life remained, but she no longer had an outlet for that energy.

During a visit, her daughter and son-in-law suggested that she find a good hobby.

I had already taken up knitting, which I found calming, but it wasn’t exhilarating. I wanted to be exhilarated.

That’s when her son-in-law suggested online college. Barbara had completed her Associate in Liberal Arts when she was 50 but had always wanted to finish her bachelor’s degree.

Choosing a Program

As she began to explore the college’s course options, she thought about a personal goal she has – writing a memoir.

I always wondered – when I’m gone from this world, will anyone remember me generations later?

After consulting with her Academic Advisor Caitlyn, she decided to enroll in the B.A. English Language Arts program to sharpen her writing skills. Writing her memoir would be a way to stay busy in retirement while securing her legacy for future generations.

Falling in Love with Online Classes

When Barbara initially enrolled at the college, she thought she would prefer in-person courses. But after trying a couple of the College’s top-ranked online courses, began to appreciate the flexibility they offered her.

I fell in love with the online courses. I realized I could work my work at my own pace.

She became comfortable with the online learning management system, Canvas, with support from her husband, William, and the college’s Canvas orientation.

Barbara loved that the online classes allowed her to earn her degree without compromising on the joys of retirement. Living near Lake Winnipesaukee in Laconia, New Hampshire, Barbara would have to drive nearly 40 minutes each way for in-person classes.

I didn’t want to cut into my boating time. We have a pontoon boat.

Meanwhile, she continued to thrive in her classes, gaining insight from her instructors and her classmates.

I really enjoyed the enthusiasm of my young adult peers. I appreciated how they all brought different perspectives and ideas.

Breaking Through the Stereotypes

All her life, Barbara has been one to challenge the status quo. As a woman growing up in the 1960s, she was frustrated by society’s expectations for women.

come from a family that insisted male children get the education. Women were expected to either stay at home and have a child or work in an office.

Barbara decided to end her first marriage and strike out on her own. She found a job as a secretary and learned to take care of herself, changing her own tires and doing her own home maintenance.

I wanted to get out there and stomp the pavement and say, “It’s not a man’s world, women can do this work, too.”

Graduating With Her Daughter

Reflecting on her experience, Barbara said finishing her degree is about more than checking a box. It’s also about proving that women can do anything.

After finishing the final courses of her degree, Barbara walked in the College’s 2022 commencement ceremony, just one day after her daughter Elizabeth graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Barbara drove down to Connecticut to see her daughter graduate, then Elizabeth was able to attend Barbara’s ceremony the next day.

Barbara graduating

With a golden tassel around her neck, indicating magna cum laude honors, pride was clearly visible in Barbara’s eyes as she held her diploma in her hands with her daughter and husband by her side.


I am so proud of myself for doing this. I was eager to prove to myself that I could finish my bachelor’s degree.

Whatever Barbara does next, it’s clear she’s not slowing down anytime soon.

I’m so thankful to the college for offering spirited classes led by excellent leaders. I’m looking forward to a summer filled with celebrations!

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