This year’s J.D. Leslie Prize winner is not your typical university graduate.

After more than 20 years of working towards her degree, Jennifer Roy, 70, finally saw her efforts pay off at Waterloo’s fall convocation ceremonies where she received her degree amongst 2,000 other graduates.

“I started my degree in 1996 when I had a hectic full-time job working 10 hours per day. I also had two teenagers and a home to run,” said Roy. “My children were my motivation. I wanted to instill in them the importance of education. Today they have five degrees between them.”

The J.D. Leslie Prize is awarded to a graduating student who has achieved a first-class standing and earned 50 percent or more of the credits for their undergraduate degree through online courses.

Roy is not only an accomplished student. She has written a novel; travelled to 66 countries and hiked more than 900 kilometres on the Bruce Trail.

Roy exemplifies the spirit of lifelong learning. She made it her goal to earn her degree before her 70th birthday which she will celebrate later this month. She completed a Bachelor of Arts (General) in Liberal Studies with a Career Development Practitioner Option almost entirely online, graduating on the Dean’s Honours List.

There are no universities near the town where Roy lives, so studying via online learning was the only way she could achieve her goal.

"Although online courses are more expensive to develop, they better support the notion of lifelong learning, allowing older individuals … to combine work/family commitments and educational development," Roy says.

"As a society, we must leave behind the belief that education is associated with youth," adds Roy. "Broadening one’s mind should not be restricted to 19 to 24 year olds from families who can afford to send their children away to university . . . It’s never too late and you are never too old to learn.”