A Forever Student: Dorothy Franklin Receives Her Ph.D. at 78 Years Old

Ph.D. recipient Dorothy Franklin (left). Natalie Adams, New College Director (right).
Ph.D. recipient Dorothy Franklin (left). Natalie Adams, New College Director, (right).

From the June 2016 Desktop News | At the ripe age of 78 years old, Dorothy Franklin received her Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies—her third UA degree in the last 17 years.

In 1957, Franklin was only 19 years old and finishing up her freshman year at Huntington College in Montgomery when she got married. The new couple moved to Tuscaloosa so her husband could finish his degree, and Franklin went from full-time student to full-time draftsman for the City of Tuscaloosa. Still, she took one class a night.

“Even with my 24 hours filled to the brim, I still felt a longing for more education,” Franklin said.

Over the next few decades, Franklin moved a lot, raising four children along the way—but it wasn’t until the 90s that she was able to return to school full time.

After moving back to Tuscaloosa, Franklin enrolled with New College, studying creative writing and wellness, and in 1999—at 61 years old—she finally received her bachelor’s degree.

“Dot is the epitome of a New College student—inquisitive, creative, willing to think outside the box, tenacious, an independent learner, motivated, and most importantly, a lover of learning,” said Natalie Adams, the director of New College.

Once Franklin received one degree, she didn’t want to stop. She said that she couldn’t get enough because she loved every subject, so she kept coming back for more.

In 2007 Franklin received her master’s degree in women’s studies, and in 2016, she successfully defended her dissertation—an exploration of the experiences of Jews living in Cuba—in order to receive her Ph.D.

Franklin has done many things besides her schooling; she has been a mother and wife; she worked as a ticket manager for the Southwest Conference; she was the Southwest sales representative for Christian Dior Lingerie; and she was the housemother for UA’s Sigma Chi Fraternity for 12 years. But education is her driving passion, and even now, she says she’ll be back.

“I want to keep on studying something—maybe Spanish, maybe more history,” Franklin said. “Whatever I take, I know it will be wonderful—a new experience, an adventure, and another goal to be reached.”