“I might be 64, but I feel 19 in my head,” said an enthusiastic Mary Reilly Callahan, ’21.
It’s been more than 40 years since the grandmother of seven has set foot in a classroom, yet Mary isn’t fazed at the age gap between her and the majority of her fellow students.
Better known as “Nana Mimi,” she has no intention of slowing down in retirement. Instead, she is enrolled this semester as a full-time student at BSU, determined to finally complete her college degree.
In 1976, Mary enlisted in the Massachusetts Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq and Kuwait.
She also raised three children, worked as a food server at South Shore Hospital, got divorced, started her own cleaning business, remarried, was employed as a home health aide and fulfilled her duties with the Massachusetts National Guard.
Some days Mary didn’t have a car and “thumbed” to work.
“I was never without a job,” she said.
Mary also endured the loss of her parents, helped nurse her husband, George, back to health after heart bypass surgery, and, today, when not spending time with her grandchildren, can be found working on her furniture-restoration business.
Despite living such a full life, she plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in art from BSU.
During her younger days in school, Mary had difficulty concentrating, making learning a challenge, and she struggled to earn high marks. To cope, she found solace in art.
“I was always drawing,” she said.
After graduating from Rockland High School in 1974, Mary received a Basic Educational Opportunity Grant and enrolled at the New England School of Art.
She left after just one year, and then life took her in numerous directions. She’s now looking to pick up where she left off by earning a degree from BSU.
“When I first came here, it felt like coming home. I parked my car, walked up to the first building, and someone held the door for me,” she said. “I knew this was the place where I needed to be.”
Mary also recently discovered why school was so grueling back in the day: She was diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Armed with this knowledge, she has been working with Pamela Spillane and the Academic Achievement Center and is finally attaining success in the classroom.
It’s never too late, she said, to go after what you want.
“I’m so happy I get to come to school. I never felt this way in high school, but now I feel it here,” she said. “I never in a million years thought I was going to do this. I just want to keep going.”