It’s been 40 years since Peggy Nevins received her associate’s degree from Moraine Valley and to this day it remains a source of great pride.

Peggy, who turned 88 years old this year, is somewhat of a trailblazer when it comes to women in higher education. In her day, few women attended college, let alone a married woman who was raising five children. “I guess you could say I was a pioneer. I was one of the original storefront students,” she said in a recent visit to campus. “There were only about 30 or 40 students at the time, and we sat on folding chairs in the back of a closed business.” The college’s first location was on 115th Street near Ridgeland Avenue.

In an autobiography Peggy penned for a Human Relations class while at Moraine Valley, she wrote, “Having been conditioned by society to think of husband, children, home and self in that order can establish a pattern that is difficult to change.” But Peggy knew she wanted to attend college and she had full support from her husband and mother, who moved in to help care for the children when Peggy was in class or at work. She went on to write, “Deviation from this pattern can and did create conflicts, but with each year that ends and another begins, my self-awareness grows stronger and my guilt diminishes.”

Despite the challenges, Peggy doesn’t regret at all her decision to attend college. Her fondest memories as a Moraine Valley student all revolve around the people–the teachers and her classmates. She traveled to Alaska with one of her instructors and built a special bond with Dr. Irene Brodie, a coveted former instructor at the college. “Irene was a special friend of mine at one time. We lost touch, but I am delighted to hear she did so well in life,” Peggy said.

Armed with her associate’s degree, she continued on to earn a bachelor’s degree in library science from Chicago State University. She worked for many years at the Oak Lawn Library, where patrons could find her working the front desk and later in the history room.

“If I was going to tell my children they needed to go to college, then I felt I had to go—to lead by example,” she said. Her face beams with pride when she notes all five of her children graduated from college. “My children all went away to school, but two of my grandchildren and six of my nieces and nephews attended Moraine Valley, and they all loved it,” she said.

Peggy recalls a time when she was a very shy person but says she believes it was during her time at Moraine Valley that she blossomed. “My self-confidence really grew when I was in college. Now I’m the family daredevil,” she said, boasting that she took her first motorcycle ride this summer. “I was at a family graduation party, and my niece’s husband pulled up on his bike. I told him I’d like to go for a ride. He said to let him know when. I said now, and off we went.”

A recent visit to campus left Peggy very impressed. “It has many years since I have been here,” she said. “I was so excited to come back to visit. The college looks amazing.” Peggy, a self-proclaimed life-long learner, says she just may come back and take another class.