We Are UNCW Telling our story, one Seahawk at a time.

Sybil Macgill

Dec. 4, 2017

When Sybil Macgill began pursuing a bachelor’s degree 34 years ago, she didn’t expect to finish her education as a part of the UNCW Class of 2017.

During commencement on Dec. 9 at Trask Coliseum, Macgill will don her cap and gown and, at last, take the walk that symbolizes completion of that degree, a Bachelor of Arts in political science. Although she is looking forward to reaching that milestone, she has enjoyed the past five years as a student at UNCW.

“It has been a great experience, being on campus with all this youth and enthusiasm,” said Macgill, who turned 70 this year, just like UNCW. “It has been a challenge.” That was precisely what she was seeking when, at age 65, she decided to return to school to finish the degree she started in 1983 at Virginia Tech.

When she married her husband, Dan, during her senior year, she put her education on hold. The couple raised a family and eventually moved to Wilmington.

“Our children were healthy and doing well, my husband had retired, I had done years of church work, volunteer work, played all the golf and bridge I wanted, but I felt mentally unchallenged,” Macgill recalled. “Everyone in our family had at least one degree and most had two, and I didn’t have any, so I decided to step way outside the box.”

She admits her younger classmates often seemed to grasp concepts more quickly, whereas she sometimes needed more time to absorb the material. “Everything is different for a nontraditional student when age is the variable,” said Macgill, who earned membership in Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society.

Changing her major from community health at VT to political science at UNCW added to the time it took to finish her degree. It was worth it, she said.

“I found my professors upheld my vision of improving my life through knowledge, challenged me to expand my intellectual boundaries and encouraged me to continue,” Macgill said. “The students have greatly surprised me; I find that they are very worldly and are engaged politically.”

She would encourage anyone who is thinking about getting a degree to apply.

“UNCW is a special place,” Macgill said. “Everyone I encountered went above and beyond to help, inform or teach me. You can’t ask for more than that.”

-- Tricia Vance