Meet the 83-year-old woman graduating from Brigham Young University–Idaho

Julie Richmond had long wanted a college education when she heard about the BYU–Pathway Worldwide program

Like many soon-to-be graduates of Brigham Young University–Idaho, Julie Richmond is excited to receive her degree. She’s worked hard for her education, and her family is proud of her accomplishments.

But unlike most graduates, Richmond is 83 years old.

Richmond, who graduates July 19 in general studies with an English minor, recalled a story she heard about a 94-year-old woman who died six months after graduating from Brigham Young University. The person telling Richmond the story called the woman’s education “a waste.”

“I said, ‘I don’t believe that was a waste at all. What else would you have had her do until she was 94 that meant anything?’” Richmond said. “... We believe that we will take with us whatever knowledge we acquire on this earth. ... I think it’s just as important to [get my education] now because I’ll need whatever I’ve learned later.”

Answered prayers

Richmond was born in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1939 and was the youngest of 10 children. Her earliest memory is of her brother leaving to fight in World War II.

Later, she and two of her sisters contracted rheumatic fever and were bedridden for two years. As a result, Richmond fell behind in school and lived under physical restrictions until she was 13 years old.

Despite these challenges, Richmond said she was raised with the expectation that she would attend college. Her parents didn’t attend college themselves, so it was important to them that their children go, Richmond said.

She enrolled at Brigham Young University but was forced to drop out in March of her freshman year when she ran out of money. In 1958, she married Lloyd Richmond.

The subsequent years became busier and busier as the Richmonds welcomed five children into their family. Julie Richmond served in a variety of callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including in ward and stake Young Women leadership positions. She also maintained an in-home wedding cake business for 19 years.

Later, after their children were grown, the Richmonds served as mission leaders in Peru and Argentina. They also served as area welfare agents in the Europe North Area’s England headquarters and in the Denver Colorado Temple when Lloyd Richmond was called to the temple presidency.

But after her husband’s death about 10 years ago, and as she watched her grandchildren and great-grandchildren pursue their educations, Julie Richmond’s long-held dream of graduating college rekindled.

Then she heard a Relief Society presentation about the BYU–Pathway Worldwide program, which offers online, low-cost certificates and degrees through BYU–Idaho and Ensign College.

“The minute I heard it, I knew my prayers had been answered, and I signed up right then to start,” Richmond said.

She couldn’t take on more than five credits a semester, but she worked steadily through each of her classes. She particularly enjoyed her religion courses — “I feel I’m best prepared for those” — and her grandkids became “some of [her] best tutors” in subjects like math that came less naturally to her.

Now, seven years after first enrolling in BYU–Pathway, Richmond is achieving her lifelong dream. “It’s been wonderful,” she said of her studies. “It’s been a little bit of everything.”

‘Don’t be tired now’

Julie Richmond sits with her extended family. The 83-year-old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother is graduating July 19, 2023, from Brigham Young University–Idaho.
Julie Richmond is pictured with her extended family. The 83-year-old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother is graduating July 19, 2023, from Brigham Young University–Idaho. | Provided by Rick Richmond

Richmond doesn’t plan to stop learning after graduation. She looks forward to time spent reading and painting, and she wants to strengthen her ministering skills and find more ways to serve others.

She also reflected on the other types of education she’s received throughout her life. On her missions, she learned new languages and experienced different cultures, and she learned a lot while writing books based on her mission experiences that she self-published through Amazon.

Richmond said she’s seen the Lord’s hand throughout her life, and her formal education wasn’t an exception. Sometimes, while struggling with an assignment or a particular concept, she’d pray for help and receive clarity on the subject.

“Usually prayers, at least mine, are answered later in the Lord’s time,” Richmond said. “But I have had a few experiences where immediately [my prayers are] answered with such power and force [that] I know He’s in the room with me, and this has happened to me several times while working on this education process.”

Rick Richmond, Julie Richmond’s oldest son, said his mother’s example is teaching her 23 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren that there’s no limit to what someone can achieve. His father would be particularly proud of her, he added.

“Even if you are in your senior years ... and nobody is expecting you to, there’s always room for improvement and growth and further development of your knowledge,” he said.

He also reflected on how his mother emphasized the importance of education while raising their family. It was simply expected that they’d get good grades and attend college, he said.

Now, Julie Richmond has met that expectation for herself.

“Anytime I feel tired or like... maybe I should relax now, I look at people like President [Russell M.] Nelson and my mother,” Rick Richmond said. “And I just say, ‘... Don’t be tired now.’”

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