ATHENS, Ga. - Most people graduate from college, then have a career, but Kathleen Yapp reversed the order.
Yapp started over in college after successful stints as an antiques dealer, an executive secretary and author as well as a wife and mother.
Now, more than half a century after she took her first college class, Yapp, 71, was among the new University of Georgia graduates celebrating the completion of their college careers last week at fall semester commencement.
Yapp, an English major with a history minor, wore a special tassel on her cap. The Gainesville woman graduated magna cum laude with a 3.8 grade point average.
When she finished her final college paper last week, her son congratulated her with a text message: "Great, congrats - now get a job."
Yapp didn't go to college for job training, however.
"I just wanted to complete the education. I love to learn and love to study," she said. "It was strictly to get the education and sit in the classes. The one thing I had not really been expecting or looking for was the friendships I made with the young people in every class. They never called me grandma or made me feel old."
Her first go at college ended as many women's did in the 1950s. The daughter of Salvation Army ministers, Yapp dropped out of Detroit's Wayne State University to get married.
For decades, she never got around to going back.
There were two children to raise, and then a career as a high-level administrative assistant. For years, she served as the executive secretary to the president of Nissan Motor Corp.'s U.S. national headquarters and was often called upon to write news releases for the company, she said.
She also found time to write newspaper and magazine articles as well as books on themes that included parenting and inspirational romance. Her 13 books sold about 750,000 copies, she estimated.
Yapp also began a successful antiques business with her second husband. The couple moved to Gainesville in 1992, but brought their antiques business with them.
When Yapp decided to finish her degree six years ago, she started off at Gainesville State College, which named her the school's outstanding nontraditional student in 2006.
Associate degree in hand, she took up studies at UGA, taking only two courses most semesters.
"I don't know how anybody can graduate in four years," she said. "It just took all I could do just to keep up with the two classes."
Yapp at first planned to continue her studies in grad school but now says her college-kid days are over, at least for a while.
"I think I'm just going to get my life back now. It's been difficult without my husband (who died in 2007). We were married 33 years," she said.
College may be over for Yapp, but not her adventures.
"As life opens up I don't know for sure where it's going to lead me. But I'm open to where God wants to lead me," she said.