PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On Sunday, June 14, Portland State University will award more than 6,000 degrees to undergrad and graduate students. One of those students is 77-year-old Michelle Reed.

“It’s taken me awhile to realize I’m really proud of myself for doing this and I really hope that people my age can look at me and say if she did it I can do it.” Reed told KOIN 6 News.

Reed worked as an emergency room nurse for 45 years. She earned her nursing degree in 1973 from a junior college. She runs her own publishing company and has written four mystery books. She retired in 2002 and moved to Portland in 2005 to be closer to her son’s family. She wanted to stay active so she started taking Russian classes at Portland Community College.

“Somewhere along the line I thought, you know, I’d like to learn Russian. Now where that came from I have no idea. And when I got in the class I went ‘oh dear me this is very hard.'” She then decided to continue studying archaeology at PSU.

“The idea of putting your hands on something that is 2,000 years old is an amazing thing to me.” said Reed, who works in Professor Shelby Anderson’s archaeology lab. “I can go down in that lab and I’m helping and I’m being useful.”

Michelle Reed, right, talks to Amy Frazier in an archaeology lab at PSU, June 11, 2015 (KOIN)

Reed said she is constantly hearing and picking things up from kids at school. But she worries about the younger generations.

“What stands out to me is the anxiety that these kids have to suffer. When I went to school it cost you $300 a semester. You got out, you got a job. Now they’re just saddled with debt and looking for work and can’t find it, but they’re persevering.”  Reed has advice for her fellow students: “Be happy, enjoy your life because that’s what you’ve got. And if you’re unhappy you’ve got nothing.”

The PSU commencement ceremony is Sunday. Reed won’t be there to receive her degree in anthropology. She’ll be in Eugene, watching her granddaughter graduate from the University of Oregon.