"My husband had just died, so I was looking for a mental challenge," she said. "The first thing I did was buy a dictionary because I couldn't understand what people were talking about! It was terrifying at first. I didn't know if I could do it."
Frances was uncertain how she would be viewed by the other much younger students in group processes, part of her course-work.
"We had to do an introduction exercise," she said. "We were told to come up with an adjective and a gesture about ourselves to perform in front of the other students. I thought about it and when it was my turn I threw my fist up in the air and shouted 'Feisty Frances!"
Frances completed her first degree, a Bachelor of Social Work, when she was in her forties, in 1977. She majored in community work and became the first female social worker in a male juvenile institution, a juvenile detention centre. Later she became the first female administrative officer in Mt Penang Detention Centre.
"Then I went to Wollongong and opened a child and family centre and that was much more fun," she said. "I much preferred working with families on preventing problems, achieving goals of keeping young people out of trouble."
Frances has enjoyed the mix of ages at SCU.
"At my age, with my grandchildren so far away, I don't get to be with young people much anymore," she said. "Being a student again has meant that I have learned from young people and they have learned from me. Some young people have said to me, my grandmother sits at home doing nothing, but look at what you can do! If I've been able to wake them up to see what we can do, that there are lots of us busily involved in the community, whether we're at university or not, that's great."
Frances has achieved a credit average, with a few distinctions thrown in. She was half way through her degree when a serious illness forced her to discontinue her studies. Frances' hard work has paid off and she will be graduating on the 20th September at the Lismore campus with an Associate Degree in Social Science.
"My sons are coming up for the graduation and we're all excited," she said. "It's been absolutely marvellous. My study has given me another view of the world, a more critical one. I've also gained a far greater understanding of politics and can see that expanding my social circle has changed my perspective. If I can encourage anybody to take a chance to do something different with their life, then I'm delighted."
Media: Contact Kath Duncan or Sara Crowe on 6620 3144, or 0439 858 057.