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Posted on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

102-year-old plans to finish University of Michigan degree after dropping out during Great Depression

By Kellie Woodhouse

She's lived through both World Wars, the advent of television and the Internet and the governing of 17 U.S. presidents.

Now 102-year-old Margaret Dunning plans to head back to the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business to finish her undergraduate degree.

According to NBC's Today Show, Dunning received a scholarship from automotive company the FRAM Group, honoring her "lifelong love of cars."

Dunning, who dropped out of U-M nearly 80 years ago during the Great Depression, still changes her own oil and spark plugs in her 1930 Packard, Today reported.

“I’ll have to figure out just what I’ll study, but it will be in business, though — I know that,” she told Today.

The Today article does not say whether she's been readmitted to U-M, but implies so, saying that Dunning is already planning her commute from the suburbs of Detroit to Ann Arbor.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Dunning has not yet enrolled for classes. In fact, she has yet to establish "direct contact" with the school, Fitzgerald said.

Read the full story here.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

Way to go. Congratulations!

Mush Room

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

If my geriatric neurons serve me this afternoon, there were around 45,000 students who applied for less than 6,000 openings at UM this fall. I don't know how many of these kids were from Michigan, but if I was a Michigan kid from a family paying taxes in Michigan, had great grades, had a great ACT and I didn't get in while she did, I'd be pretty ticked. Actually, if she's admitted, I'm going to be pretty ticked, since my recently raised taxes on my pension are now going to be used educate someone actually old enough to be my grandmother. Considering my advanced age, that's quite a statement.

Matt P

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

If you read the story, you'll see that she spent 2 years at U of M before you were born (if she's old enough to be your grandmother). Since she isn't a freshman, your first point is moot. As to your second, take a quick second to look the woman up on wikipedia; I think you'll find that she's probably covered her share over the years.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

I wonder if she will pledge a sirority. Also, 2/3 of the people who apply to Michigan get turned down. How would she get accepted?


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

Wait - I just want to be clear - This story is about a woman who's talking about maybe going back to school. Is this correct? "University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Dunning has not yet enrolled for classes. In fact, she has yet to establish "direct contact" with the school, Fitzgerald said." Who cares. I have plenty of plans - anybody want to hear them? One involves going to Lake Tahoe sometime, the other involves Tokyo. I would also like to skydive, though I haven't make any arrangements yet to that effect.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

FatKitty- I read the article, which is why I asked the question. Did you read the article? Did you notice that this woman actually hasn't done a single thing (other than receive some form of a scholarship from her employer) to attend the University?


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

Did you read the article? She's >>>>>>> 102 <<<<<<<<<<< years old!


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Wow, she still changes her own oil in that antique car. I somehow feel less of a man because I take my car to the dealer for service. I can't reach the spark plugs and am too lazy to change oil on my own anymore.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

Actually, LaFontaine in Saline changes oil for $10 or so and they're great people. It's a loss leader for them but I give them my other service work as well. Plus, I cannot buy oil, a filter, and dispose of it for less than what they charge.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

That's why the antique car still runs. Take it the local "oil shoppe" and you'd be lucky to drive away with it at all.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

Geez people .... can't you just enjoy the story for what it is?? Do we need to analyze and look for the negative in everything?? Congrats to Ms. Dunning!! I wish her well!!


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

I think you are on the wrong web site or are you just new.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

What is this story, exactly? It's a story about a woman who has plans to do something, but has not yet done anything towards making those plans a reality. In other words, a non-story.

Tom Wieder

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

Ms. Dunning sounds like a fascinating and vibrant person, and it is nice to see how enthusiastic she still is about learning at age 102. On the other hand, the attention on her attempt to complete her degree emphasizes some of the worst attitudes about education. Getting a degree is not the same as learning or education. Degrees are credentials, arbitrarily defined in credit hours and majors and subject distribution requirements. They are used to gain admission to other formal educational programs or to qualify for consideration for a job or a professional license. While learning is an enriching experience at any age, "getting a degree" at Ms. Dunning's age makes little sense. What business is it of ours? As a Michigan resident, Ms. Dunning's educational experience will be heavily subsidized by taxpayers, since her tuition, whoever pays it, will not come close to covering the actual costs of her classes, etc. The amount of dollars involved in her case will probably be small, but it illustrates a larger problem. This country currently spends many billions of dollars subsidizing the granting of degrees/credentials for which there are no practical uses and/or in cases where the subsidy is either not needed at all or isn't means-tested. It is a hugely wasteful system which saddles taxpayers now and graduates with large loans for years to come. Opportunities for learning should be fostered for everyone. The pursuit of certificates, for the sake of them, should not be hailed, or subsidized.

Matt P

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

Yeah, we should really stick it to this 102 year-old freeloader who wasted her younger years being a red cross volunteer, philanthropist, and business owner. Someone who has donated over a million dollars to museums in Plymouth, MI is probably a real drain to your tax dollars, Tom. Or, we could applaud this woman-who has given way more to her community, state, and country than either of us ever will-for still having the drive to try and achieve a goal she set out to do 80 years ago. I'm willing to bet that someone who has the financial means to donate more than $1.1MM to a local museum has put in a lot more than she's taken out.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 10:39 a.m.

Love it - best.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 8:51 a.m.

@TruBlue76. But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be in vain; The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain For promis'd joy. Still thou art blessed compar'd wi' me! The present only toucheth thee; But oh!, I backward cast my e'e [eye], On prospects dear! An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 6:42 a.m.

"102-year-old plans to finish University of Michigan degree ..." That's PLANS TO, NOT has already. Since Ms. Dunning hasn't even enrolled at U of M yet - this is a hypothetical matter. A more accurate headline might be: 102 Year Old Woman adds U of M degree to her Bucket List. "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley..." is a line from the seventh stanza of Robert Burn's poem, "To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough" This is a remarkable story -- remarkable for its boundless optimism. Best of luck, Ms. Dunning.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

All is Vanity Dudes. Can yer Sentimentalism and View Reality!!! Give me a break dudes! At $35K a year a 20 year old student can pay-back their UM B School Obama "loan" degree in about 20 years. However, when yer a 100 year plus "Obama student, " do you Really Think Ms. Dunning will Re-Pay her Obama Student "Loan"? during to her Lifetime? Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; All is Vanity. Ecclastics 12:8.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

She has a scholarship... not a student loan!

music to my ear

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:49 a.m.

I think someone needs to get ahold of the guinness world record can you all do that for her."oldest college student'


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:36 a.m.

I am so sick of readers criticizing every single story on this site. This is a tremendous achievement and it's a great example of perseverance and living life to the fullest. Jesus Christ.

Matt P

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Who is the Ann Arborite that thinks the world revolves around them, snapshot? The old woman in this article who doesn't live in Ann Arbor? And whose opportunity is she taking away? I don't believe they said they are admitting her as a freshman; if not, she's filling one of the normal spots that opens up due to attrition every year anyway. I agree with Mike, the posters here need to stop criticizing every single story.


Sun, Sep 30, 2012 : 3:43 a.m.

So you think it's OK to take a young person's opportunity away from them? Typical. I'm so tired of self centered Ann Arborites who think the world revolves around them. It's like eating your young.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

I hope she realizes tuition is a little higher than it used to be.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

Doesn't a scholarship entail that she has to pay it back? Most times scholarships come with strings. But then again at her age? She won't be able to pay it back at her age.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:30 a.m.

D'oh, I guess it doesn't matter if she has a scholarship.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:07 a.m.

Wow! Google Margaret Dunning. What a life she has had!


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 12:58 a.m.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

The link took me to the article which states: "Dunning grew up on a dairy and potato west of Detroit," :-)! Maybe growing up on a dairy and "a potato" is the key to a long life, :-)!!! Oh, ...and the fact that, as the article also states, her mother owned a bank!

Dog Guy

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.

Anyone going for a business degree in the current economy suggests a hope for change in the upcoming elections. I have seen her Packard being driven around Plymouth a few times: always polished. Here's a WXYZ video:


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

Participate in Research at the UM Geriatrics Research Center. Prove that it is not all that difficult to graduate from the Ross B School! "The Research Participant Program at the Geriatrics Center links individuals to research studies that might be of interest."


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

What is your problem exactly?? Did she ask you to pay the tuition? Or is she taking your spot in the class? I can't understand why anybody would criticize a person at not so normal age for college education is willing to go back to school. This is a great story which is not hurting your or anybody's life at all!


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

Mrs. Dunning: I'm certain you are a nice lady; kindly excuse some of the following questions that may appear harsh, but they require an answer. 1. Seats in classrooms are limited; is it a wise investment of educational capital to school a 100+ year old person? (Thank God it's only the B School and she doesn't seek admittance to the Medical School). 2. Can credit hours earned more than 80 years ago be applied toward a UM degree? (most universities do not honor stale credit hours). 3. Should a 100+ year old person be driving a car from Detroit to A.A. in the Winter? 4. Could she earn credits at UM-Dearborn, then transfer them to A.A.? 5. Can she take UM courses on-line? (many courses are offered). Did she pass an Entrance Exam? 6. Is this a PR stunt by UM? 7. Can she co-enroll in the B School and the UM Geriatric Research Center? Certainly a 100+ year old could provide some great brain scans to advance the Center's research goals!


Sun, Sep 30, 2012 : 3:39 a.m.

They wouldn't allow her in medical school....I believe there IS an age limit for enrollement. The military also has an age limit. so all you "annarborites" that believe the world is yours at ANY age need a reality check.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

Wow - --- When I'm 102, I'm going to get in my '07 Jeep and hunt you down (if YOU live that long), just so I can grab you by the ears and give you exactly what you deserve for asking such ridiculous and discriminatory questions.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:37 a.m.

Yes, it is a wise investment of educational capital. Go away.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.

The university should let her attend for free, and I volunteer to drive her to and from classes, so she doesn't have to try to use the poor excuse for inter-county bus service.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

Best of luck to her! A real circle of life to this story. She's coming in at 102 to finish her degree and current graduates will pay off their student loans - also at about 102.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

Go get 'em Ms. Dunning. If a career in automotive is what you desire, then please do consider a minor in statistics... we could use more people in quality control. And I hope to hear you loud and strong in the rendition of "The Yellow and The Blue" at your commencement.

Hot Sam

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

You go girl!

Michigan Reader

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 9:49 p.m.

This must be the " Little Old Lady From Pasadena." Go, granny, go! But, seriously, this is remarkable. It's a story.