The annual GLOCER conference kicks off Tuesday at the USFSM campus.

USFSM to confer degree to oldest graduate in USF System

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: May 02, 2019

USF Sarasota-Manatee to confer degree to oldest graduate in USF System

Janet Wells

Janet Wells is not “a sit-around-the-house type of person,” so instead of settling down in retirement, the 66-year-old works in sales, traveling across Texas and Louisiana, and she credits her degree at USF Sarasota-Manatee for helping her land her “dream job.”

“I like to be busy. I still have great things to do,” she said.

Wells will be the oldest to graduate from a USF System campus during the 2018-19 academic year when she accepts her degree Monday at USFSM’s commencement exercise at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto.

Wells plans to drive from Texas to attend the ceremony. Her journey to become a college graduate goes back further, though.

Laid off from a job in Texas – one of several positions she’s held over the years – Wells relocated to Florida to be closer to her sister and eventually landed in Palmetto, where she bought a house and enrolled at USF Sarasota-Manatee in southern Manatee County.

She had always intended to finish her degree, she said, but never found the time between working and raising six children.

Energetic and open to new challenges, Wells’ career has run the gamut. At times, she’s worked as a computer programmer and systems analyst, sold encyclopedias door-to-door, worked as a receptionist at a real estate company and as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. She restocked store shelves, delivered newspapers, served as a circulation manager, and for a while, worked in code enforcement in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

She also served as an editor of a now-defunct weekly newspaper in Peachtree City, Georgia, and later owned a public relations firm there. She enjoyed those last two jobs so much that when it came time to register for classes at USFSM, she opted to enroll in the professional and technical communication program.

“I guess I felt it fit best with the jobs I loved the most,” she said.

Initially, she intended to take a class or two, but ended up enrolling as a full-time student, starting in January 2018, to finish what had been begun years earlier at Brigham Young University. She wrapped up the last couple of classes, in writing and finance, this past semester.

That’s when her dream job surfaced, selling fabric and other materials to quilting shops and fabric stores.

She thoroughly enjoys sewing and fabrics and couldn’t resist when an ad for a sales representative appeared in a quilting magazine. The job required an immediate move to Texas, but she was able to finish her education online.

It might not seem like it, but the position draws on many of Wells’ skills, including what she learned in her professional writing courses at USFSM.

“Some take this degree and become writers, but to become a writer you have to write about what you know, and this gives me a niche where I can write and pass on information that I know to my clients,” she said. “I’ve also been approached by an industry magazine about writing a column for them.

“Communication is everywhere,” she said. “It’s used in every job. You can’t succeed without good communication skills.”

Her children, meanwhile, remain supportive of her decision to return to Texas and work full time, although they would prefer that she slow down. Wells says she has no intention of doing that.

“They roll their eyes and worry about me, but they’re supportive,” she said. “They know I’m not a sit-around-the-house type of person. I’m a strong, independent woman. I still have great things to do.”

To learn more about degree programs at USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit www.usfsm.edu.

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