Agriculture student Eloise Ash Taylor, 79, becomes degree candidate

Although Mrs. Eloise Ash Taylor thinks of herself as “just an ordinary woman,” she’s accomplished some pretty extraordinary things during her lifetime. On Saturday, May 9, she will walk across the stage as a graduate of the Alcorn State University School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences, Department of Human Sciences, an impressive feat for anyone to achieve. But what makes Taylor’s story so phenomenal is that she achieved her bachelor’s degree as a 79-year-old mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and community servant.

Taylor was born into a small farm family in West Point, Miss. in 1936. Her parents gave birth to three daughters and three sons; however, they unfortunately passed away early on, leaving the children to fend largely for themselves.

Taylor married at an early age, as was customary during that time. Soon after marriage, her first child was born and she thought that education was not an option for her. However, Taylor was always interested in learning.

“I always wanted to go to college, so when I got a chance to go, after all the children grew up and left home and my husband passed away, so I thought this seems like a good time,” she said.

So, the 74-year-old Taylor began her collegiate studies and chose to major in human sciences because she had a passion for helping children. She teaches Sunday school at Second Baptist Church of Port Gibson and through this tenure, she has witnessed many changes in the generational parenting styles.

“So many of the children are just kind of neglected and they end up misguided,” Taylor stated. “I just thought it would be good if I could help in some way.”

Taylor serves as an inspiration for many who may have an interest in furthering their education, but feel that their season has passed.

“I encourage a lot of people, especially older women, to continue their education. I want people to know it’s never too late to better yourself! I also tell young people that they need more than a high school degree,” she said.

Taylor states that she has learned a lot throughout this experience, yet it was not without some trials along the way.

“There were a lot of times I thought about giving up, but the nice people in my department, especially my good friend Dr. Carrie Ford, Department chair, encouraged me to keep on going. The hardest part for me was the technology. I was kind of stuck in my old ways, but the students and the teachers helped me to grow. I also learned a lot about diversity at Alcorn because there are people here from all around the nation and world. But the most important thing that I learned and try to preach to others is that you’re never too old to learn.”

Taylor has one son who lives in Fayetteville, N.C., where he is an accomplished musician. She also has three daughters, two of who live and work in various aspects of the health care field in Dallas, Texas, and one who is a schoolteacher in Louisiana. Her baby daughter is studying to be a nurse’s aide. She also has a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have been supportive throughout the process and are proud of her accomplishments.

“They all plan to be here and are excited to see me walk across that stage,” Taylor exclaimed.