Thursday, May 30, 2024

71-year-old UTSA graduate Lori Branson completes college journey

71-year-old UTSA graduate Lori Branson completes college journey

MAY 24, 2024 — Lori Branson has reached a milestone nearly four decades in the making. On Friday, May 17, the 71-year-old Roadrunner crossed the Commencement stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies with concentrations in music, kinesiology and sociology.

Branson, who started her studies at UTSA in 1985, took a unique path toward graduation — compared to the more straightforward route of traditional students.

She grew up in Mexico and moved to San Antonio at the start of her high school years. She attended Alamo Heights, was married for a time after graduating in 1972, and had two children.

In 1977, she joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany for three years before she was honorably discharged in 1980. Time in the field took a toll on her body, with Branson sustaining injuries to her knees that later would require surgery. While overseas, she was also responsible for caring for her children as a single parent. 

Once she was discharged, Branson returned to the United States with her family. Though her time in the Army had its challenges, she loved it and is proud of her military service, which would later enable her to attend college tuition-free through the Hazlewood Act. This state benefit provides qualified veterans, spouses and dependent children with an education benefit of up to 150 hours of tuition exemption. About 16% of UTSA’s students are affiliated with the military, including active-duty military members, veterans, reserves/guards, and their spouses and dependents.

Branson developed her own slogan, “Never too old to be bold,” which she proudly displayed on her mortarboard at UTSA’s spring Commencement festivities.

“I look back on my life, and I see in every instance and in everything that’s going on in my life, I see God’s hand,” Branson said.

When Branson enrolled at UTSA in 1985, the university was a mere 12 years old. Only a few buildings stood at the time, including the McKinney Humanities building, the Flawn Sciences buildings and the John Peace Library.

She initially enrolled as a kinesiology major, with plans to become a swim coach for an area high school. The physical education courses, however, were difficult, given her Army-related injuries. She subsequently dropped out in 1987.

Nearly 40 years later, in the summer of 2022, Branson decided it was time to finish what she had started and contacted UTSA about re-enrolling. She learned that she was only missing 50 credit hours to complete her bachelor’s degree.

She registered for classes in the fall of 2022 as a multidisciplinary studies major.

Branson excelled in her classes, making the Dean’s list and honor roll multiple times during her last four semesters, and was in the UTSA Honor Society. In April 2024, Branson was inducted into the National Society for Leadership and Success.

Despite her academic success, Branson felt a rift between her and other students when she initially started school.

“With some of the classes I’ve been in, the interaction [with other students] was very limited because there was an age barrier,” Branson said.

Having sung in choirs from junior high through high school, Branson deeply loved music and decided to make it a significant part of her new college life.

During her first semester back, she asked assistant choral director Jordan D. Boyd about singing in the University Chorus. She joined in the spring of 2023.

Learn more about the UTSA University College and its multidisciplinary studies program.
Read more about the UTSA Alumni Association.

In the School of Music, she found camaraderie and a sense of belonging as a member of the choir where she was embraced by other students. Since joining the choir, Branson has performed in seven concerts, including the recent collaboration with UTSA Lyric Theatre on The Verdi Project.

“Words cannot express what being a part of Dr. Boyd’s class has meant to me,” Branson said. “I’m going to miss this so much.”

While at UTSA, Branson, who is also a first-generation student, developed her own slogan, which she has demonstrated repeatedly: “Never too old to be bold.”

She proudly displayed the message on her mortarboard as she crossed the Commencement stage.

Rolando Ramon

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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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