70-year-old achieves 45-year goal of graduating from Auburn

Published 9:30 am Saturday, May 6, 2023

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Sherry Potts, a 70-year-old Lanett native, has spent the last two years of her life working hard to be an inspiration for her family and for others who have a seemingly insurmountable goal.

After 45 years, Potts will graduate from Auburn University with her bachelor’s degree in political science this weekend. 

“My daughter has finished college. My granddaughter has finished college,” Potts said. “I just felt like if there’s going to be a legacy, it needs to start with me. So I came back so that I could establish the legacy for my child and grandchildren.”

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Potts began her education at Auburn when she was 21 in the ’70s. She worked for many years as a state driver’s license examiner. 

In 2021, after her mother and brother both passed away, she realized that she needed something to help her move forward.

“I needed something,” Potts said. “And I just stumbled upon this application for readmission to Auburn University.”

She reapplied, got accepted and even qualified for scholarship tuition. With her previous credits, she was able to start as a junior. 

However, after so many years, Potts said there was a lot she didn’t remember how to do. College of Liberal Arts advisor April Foti helped her create a class schedule so that she could graduate in two years. 

“God placed April Foti in my life as a roadmap to the goal that I was seeking,” Potts said.

As a nontraditional student, Potts struggled with some assignments. However, her professors never let her fall behind the rest of the class. 

“It’s been a journey because at 70 years old, your mind doesn’t work like it did when you were 20,” Potts said. “I had to really apply myself to all of the things that have to do with political science because it is not an easy major.”

Particularly, Political Science Lecturer Matthew Clary and Associate Professor Jon Fisk were both happy to answer any questions. Dr. Bill Kelly, who passed away in 2021, also impacted Potts when she returned to Auburn.

“I’m grateful for this Auburn family, who embraced me and have continued to embrace me on this journey without whom this could not be possible,” Potts said.

Though she returned to school to encourage her family, Potts’ granddaughter Alaiyah Potts called her frequently to check in and make sure she was keeping up with her studies. 

“She’s been my greatest family motivator,” Potts said. “She keeps me on top of things.”

Pott is proud to be a representative of her hometown Lanett as she completes her 45-year-long educational journey on Saturday. 

“The greatest thing that I could do is to motivate some person who’s perhaps stumbling around in the world thinking that I can’t do it, and get them to think if she did it, maybe I can do it,” Potts said. “Maybe they’ll take the first step because they saw me take the first step, and I completed the journey that I started.”