Lisa Laliberte will graduate with her bachelor of science in nursing on May 10, 2024. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News
Lisa Laliberte will graduate with her bachelor of science in nursing on May 10, 2024. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Grandmother fulfills longtime goal, earns nursing degree

COVID and her husband took away Lisa Laliberte’s excuses.

For decades, the 59-year-old grandmother wanted to become a nurse but never acted on that dream. On May 10, she’ll be among the graduates of Augusta University, achieving that long time goal.

 “My beautiful husband kept saying ‘why don’t you go to school?’’ the Columbia County resident said. “I’d say ‘no. I’m too old. I’m not smart enough.’”

But when COVID happened, her husband, Guy, looked at her and asked again. And she didn’t have an excuse.

She’d thought about nursing a few years after graduating Butler High School in 1982. She served in the Army from 1984 to 1989, and at the time, soldiers had the option of signing up for the GI Bill. Laliberte rejected the benefit – a decision she regretted. She thought she’d be career Army.

But life happened, she said.

The Army sent her to Fort Bliss, Texas. She thought about taking out some loans to get her degree, and she applied to the University of Texas, El Paso, but her marriage came to an end, leaving her as the single mom of a 2-year-old son.

“I was heartbroken, a single mom with no job,” she said.

It wasn’t long before she’d moved back to her hometown. The thoughts of nursing school were left behind as she focused on raising her son. Over the next 30 years, she earned three associate degrees and worked as a pharmacy technician for two decades.

But nursing school always called to her.

She applied to Augusta University twice. The first time she got her application in at the wire. The second time she applied to AU and other technical schools.

She remembers May 19, 2022 well. Not only is that her daughter-in-law’s birthday, but it’s the day she learned she’d been accepted into the Augusta University nursing program.

Nursing school became her full-time job from the minute she stepped onto the campus, she said.

“It’s different when you are older,” she said. “My mind does not soak up things like a sponge. I can do it, but I’m not like my husband who is an electrical engineer. It doesn’t come through my pores.”

Laliberte said she isn’t able to take notes while listening during classes, so she bought an audio recorder and has all of the classes except one over the last two years on those recordings. At home, she could listen to them and stop the recorder when necessary to write down what she needed.

Her classmates were supportive and encouraging offering her their notes at time and being cheerleaders. Laliberte said she’s the oldest person in her nursing classes.

And while working on her degree was difficult, Laliberte said she’d do it again in a heartbeat, and is considering furthering her education with a master’s degree and Doctor of Nursing Practice.

“It’s just about my goals and achieving the things that I have shortchanged myself in my youth by not believing in myself,” she said.

Laliberte will work at the VA Hospital to fulfill her obligations. She received funding through the military’s Health Professions Scholarship Program and was part of the VA Student Experience Training Program (STEP).

Laliberte said she hopes she can be an inspiration to others.

“I’ve weathered a lot of storms, and that’s why I tell people ‘You don’t know until you try,’ and my classmates roll their eyes when I say ‘You’re not too old until you’re cold,’” she said.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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One response to “Grandmother fulfills longtime goal, earns nursing degree”

  1. Jean Ehrlich says:

    Had the pleasure of meeting her yesterday at graduation my granddaughter graduated also! She is an inspiration!!