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Another broken boundary | 85-year-old woman graduating from Southern Methodist

According to SMU, Marillyn Seeberger has been making history as a woman in the advertising field. She now plans to pursue her passion and write screenplays.
Credit: Southern Methodist University

DALLAS — Marillyn Seeberger is a reminder to everyone that it's never too late to go for your dreams.

She graduated high school in Oklahoma back in 1954. Seeberger was set to go to the University of Oklahoma but chose to get married and start a family instead.

Almost 70 years later, Seeberger picked up where she left off. Now, at 85 years old, she's graduating with a bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University.

She's getting her degree in film and media arts and plans to write screenplays.

“I don’t want to just take up space on the planet,” Seeberger said.

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According to SMU, she's been taking up space for all of the right reasons.

Marillyn Seeberger was a mother to three daughters by the time she was 23.

In the 1960s, she went to secretarial school at night and then landed her first job at an Oklahoma TV station. Seeberger worked in several departments at the station, co-producing and sometimes appearing on live shows. She also wrote and produced public service programs.

She then moved to Dallas in 1968 and joined the film production team at The Bloom Agency, the city's largest independent advertising agency at the time. 

In 13 years, Seeberger became Bloom's first female VP of broadcast production. She was helping to make commercials for national campaigns, award-winning films and more.

Over time, she also became the first woman to lead nearly every professional film and production organization in Dallas before starting her own company, Turtle Island Pictures.

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After decades of success, Seeberger went into retirement and took community college classes to keep her busy. The more classes she took, however, the more she thought about her longtime dream to become a writer.

“I always wanted to write,” she said. “I knew I had stories to tell with a little bit of fact and a little bit of fiction.”

In 2020, Seeberger transferred to SMU to finish her degree. She was one of the many college students that had to navigate their way through Zoom classes during the pandemic.

She credits her fellow classmates for her success in virtual learning.

“The young people in my classes have helped me out,” said Seeberger. “I have their names and phone numbers. I learned long ago from my work that the most important thing to know is who to call for help.”

At age 85, Seeberger is set to lead other film graduates into the McFarlin Auditorium on May 14 as a marshal for their commencement ceremony.

“Every spring, faculty in every program select a marshal from among the students, said Derek Kompare, chair and associate professor of film and media arts. “We tend to grant this honor to students who have displayed some signature perseverance and have a unique path to graduation. Marillyn was the only, obvious choice for us this year!”

Ahead of this weekend's ceremony, Seeberger also got to meet another graduate making history at SMU. Haley Taylor Schlitz, a North Texas native, will walk across the stage not only to graduate as the youngest law student at the university ever, but also as the youngest African American law student in the U.S. at age 19. 

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Seeberger and Taylor Schlitz sat down to talk about each other's journeys. Watch the clip below: 

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