June 13, 2024 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

In her late 60s, Darlene Walker was looking for a purpose in her life. She found that and an eight-year activity that kept her mind engaged when she enroled in King’s Sociology program. She was hooked from her very first course.

Walker recently completed her last course and will receive her degree from the school she calls “her happy place.”

“My overall experience at King’s has been life-changing. I cannot overstate how proud I am to have completed this journey. My family is also proud of me,” Walker says.

After the passing of her husband in 2015, Walker, at the age of 68, wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. She was volunteering in many capacities, as she had since she was 14 years old. Walker had coached boys house league minor hockey with the South London Minor Sports Association, was a founding president of the London Devilettes Girls Minor Hockey Association, was a literacy tutor for adults, both in London and Renfrew County (including chairing the Renfrew County literacy program) and served as a board member on the St. Francis Memorial Hospital Board in Barry's Bay, Ontario.

However, her daughter-in-law, Suzan Marchand Walker '93, a King’s alumna, reminded Darlene that she had always said her only regret was not attending university.

Her daughter-in-law told her how King’s campus was smaller and more inclusive. One of Walker’s granddaughters had also attended King’s before heading to Western for her master’s degree. A week after the conversation, Walker contacted Waterloo University for the transcripts of the correspondence courses she had taken many years earlier.

She enrolled at King’s for the fall of 2016 and chose Sociology because she loves studying people and society. It was also the best fit for her workplace experiences, having worked for several years in Human Resources and Social Services and having a volunteering background.

“My very first course at King’s was Sociology 1020, taught by Dr. Tara Bruno [Associate Professor of Sociology] and I was hooked,” Walker says. Overall, Walker says the professors were very kind and supportive regarding her real-life contributions to class discussions.

The learning experience for Walker went beyond what her professors taught her. She gained a deeper appreciation for the young people she met at King’s. “I believe our future is in good hands. I love the size of the campus and the friendliness of everyone. I was treated with absolute respect the whole time I was there,” she says, adding that she enjoyed her interesting professors and classmates.

Walker was appreciative of the counselling and academic supports that King’s offers. King’s also offered accommodations after Walker had knee replacement surgery.

Now at 77, Walker says she is looking forward to doing some creative writing in the future.

Congratulations on your academic achievement, Darlene!

Media Coverage:
Walker appeared on CBC's London Morning with Andrew Brown on June 18, 2024.

Walker spoke about being "excited and nervous" about Convocation. "It's a special moment," she said. Walker related her decision to go back to school and her experience at King's.

"I was, by my professors and my classmates, always treated with the utmost respect and I never felt that I didn't belong there. I think I was fairly comfortable in the classroom," she said.

She discussed working with Accessibility Services to help accomodate her and her professors and classmates enjoying her contributions to class discussions, based on her real-life experiences. At the same time, she learned from her younger classmates, and said hearing their viewpoints was "enlightening and refreshing."

The young people are motivated, they're smart, they're goal-oriented. We're in good hands," Walker says. "Every course I took, I learned and I learned!"

Walker's story was also told in The Catholic Register. “I would say the moment I finally graduated was one of the high points of my life and I even said to a couple of my friends that it was up there with getting married,” she said.

Dr. Tara Bruno, Associate Professor of Sociology, taught Walker's first course. She immediately thought "This is it, I love this,' ” Walker said. “I just couldn't believe it. From that class, I told myself that even if it is the last thing I do, I am going to get my degree in Sociology.”

Further, Walker was proud to say that Bruno and another fellow mature student she had befriended will “no doubt be her friends for life.”


Read about the success of other mature students.

Nothing alumnus says nothing should stand in the way of goals

Graduating student with Alzheimer’s thankful for support