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Myrtle Butterfield, with her great-granddaughter Jamie (left) and great-grandson Carter. All are attending SUNY Canton. Photo: Gregory Kie
Myrtle Butterfield, with her great-granddaughter Jamie (left) and great-grandson Carter. All are attending SUNY Canton. Photo: Gregory Kie

A new love of learning, at 83

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A Canton great-grandmother will earn her associate degree from SUNY Canton in a few weeks, and says she wants to continue her higher education. 83-year-old Myrtle Butterfield is a liberal arts major who says age should never be a barrier to attending college.

Butterfield went straight from high school to marriage in the late 1940's and says she regretted not getting a college degree. This year, she's been taking classes alongside two of her great grandchildren, 65 years after graduating from high school.

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Reported by

Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

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Butterfield decided one day on a whim to go with her granddaughter-in-law to see if she could apply to take classes. To her surprise; 45 minutes later she was registered. As the financial aid department was helping her to apply for loans and grants, the system kept rejecting her birthday of 1929.

Butterfield’s bucket list has only two things on it: get a college degree, and go to Ireland. She entered SUNY Canton just before her 81st birthday, and says it’s “been the best thing I’ve ever done, for me.” She plans to walk down the aisle to receive her degree in May.

After graduation, Butterfield and plans to work towards a 4-year degree. She wants to be “the grandma Moses of the literary world.” She wrote her first poems last semester and says she can’t stop writing. She also does well at essay writing, but says she is too lazy to ever write a book. Butterfield has taken several business courses, along with many writing and literature classes, and her GPA puts her in the top ten percent of her class.

Great-granddaughter Jamie, a Virginia native, thinks it’s pretty cool, because now she gets to see her great-grandmother more. “It’s in the family,” Butterfield said. Jamie’s father also went to SUNY Canton as an engineering student, Butterfield’s daughter got her degree from SUNY Canton, and her son attended as well before he joined the military. Her grandson has graduated from Canton, as well as a son-in-law and soon a granddaughter-in-law. And now she has two great-grandchildren currently enrolled.

Monday to Thursday Butterfield is on campus; Friday to Sunday is “study time.” Butterfield finds that working online is easiest for her, as she can work from home. She said that at her age the brain doesn’t work like it used to, so she spends a lot more hours studying than Jamie or the typical Canton student.

Butterfield has one professor that uses her as an example, saying she had an 82-year-old student who would pull an “all-nighter.” But she doesn’t think of herself as a role model for her generation, because she went to college for “selfish reasons.”

Butterfield enjoys writing about things she knows about, poetry being one of her favorite modes of expression. And she loves being on campus with her grandchildren and granddaughter-in-law. “I’m huge fan of family, and they’re what makes the world go round.”

Butterfield says she has no regrets over not going when she was younger, now that she is finally in college. She is really enjoying her time, and believes she might not have had as much fun if she was younger.

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