Marcy Medina's father always wanted her to go to college, but he probably had a speedier timeline in mind.
Still, Medina, 61, of Chandler figures it's better late than never to fulfill a promise.
She will attend Arizona State University's spring commencement at 4 p.m. today with about 5,000 other graduates at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.
Medina won't be the oldest person to receive an undergraduate degree. There are 54 graduates older than 50, including three 62-year-olds and a 64-year-old. But she might be one of the Sun Devils' best new recruiters. She tells her five children, 11 grandchildren and anyone else who will listen that if she can snag a degree, anyone can.
"Nothing can stop you from going if you want to,” she said. “You can't say, 'Well, it was because of my family.' I don't buy that."
Medina grew up near Casa Grande, and she learned the value of school at an early age — partly because time spent in a classroom was more fun
than the summers she spent picking and cutting cotton with her older brother.
It was hard work: The pain of prickly cotton, the heat while chopping weeds in cotton fields during summer months.
"It would kind of suffocate you with the humidity if they had just irrigated," she said.
Her father grew up an orphan in Mexico and gained citizenship by enlisting in the miliary during World War II, fighting in Normandy and Germany. He returned from war and made Medina promise to create a good life for herself.
"He didn't want us to work in the elements," she said. "He didn't want us to have to work hard like he did."
Her father died when she was 12. Suddenly, Medina had to work more to help feed her mother, and her eight brothers and sisters.
Yet the real blow to her education came when she got pregnant and dropped out as a sophomore in high school. For decades, Medina figured she had blown her chance for higher education.
She got married, finished her General Educational Development diploma and took a smattering of classes at Mesa Community College. But throughout her life — as she raised her children and worked a variety of jobs in her 36-year tenure at Motorola — she continued to think about her degree, and the promise she made to her father.
When she chided her children to go to college, they jabbed back, telling her she should enlist in college programs offered through Motorola.
"They said, 'Well, mom, why don't you do it?' " Medina said. "I said, 'No, I'd never get in.' "
But in 1999, at the age of 57, Medina finally applied for a Motorola program and was accepted. She enrolled as a combination marketing and communications major, working 40 to 60 hours a week at her day job and piling on night classes.
Her family was supportive, though she said she sometimes realized they needed her to spend time with them.
"What brings you together sometimes tears you apart," she said.
So, she tells people, she could have graduated with better than a B average if she'd had more time.
Now retired, Medina said she’ll use her degree to convince children to go to college.
"She said I ought to keep up my grades to go to college, and that is true," said 9-year-old grandson Brenden Medina.
Marcy Medina has already volunteered with students at Chandler's Knox Elementary School and Mesa Junior High School, and is looking for more.
“Look at me — look at my age — and don't say that somebody kept you from doing what you want to do," she said. "I don't want any lost children out there. I want everybody to go to school."