Denise Hackett

It was amazing to let my grandkids see that you can do it no matter what life throws at you.

Denise Hackett


Denise Hackett of Edmond, OK, is one of those remarkable individuals who overcome incredible odds to achieve a dream. For Denise, the dream was a college education, and the obstacle was her health.

When considering the option of completing a college degree, Denise was hesitant because of her health issues – she has a bleeding disorder that requires extensive medical assistance. “I didn’t want to start and then have to stop.” However, she felt she was in a rut and needed to do something about it. "I did nursing for 20 years, and I knew I couldn't go back. I didn't know what avenue to take or how to travel back to success." After speaking to an Ashford Admissions Counselor, Denise had more direction and felt more confident about making the leap.

Before long, Denise enrolled in Ashford’s Associate of Arts in Business* online degree program. “My goal now is to open a group home for teen girls. I was a teenage mother of three, and I love my kids, but this is not the way to go. If I had gone a different route, I think my life would have been easier. I feel like teens sometimes just want someone to hear them out – I can talk to them and let them know that they are not the only ones who have had a hard life.”

Unfortunately, Denise’s health challenges continued, and she suffered a stroke. “I was in bed for about a year, and my hand was in the fetal position on the left side because of the stroke. I finally just got mad. I wanted to get up, and I couldn’t. So I got up, and I fell a few times. When they pulled me up, I said, ‘You are going to stand me up and keep me standing, and we are going to do this today.’ So we started doing physical therapy right there in the house. Today, I have full range of motion on my left side. My health is not in full remission, but I’m in remission from a lot of stuff. I am still fighting.”

Though she had to take a few breaks, Denise persevered through her Associate’s program, and graduated in April 2011. Her doctor gave her permission to attend the commencement ceremony as long as she wore a back brace, so she packed up the family and headed for Iowa. Five of her six grandchildren were in the audience when she walked across the stage and received her diploma, cheering, “Nana, you did it!”

“The kids had never seen that many people before; they said, ‘Nana, those people did it, too.’ It was amazing to let my grandkids see that you can do it no matter what life throws at you. And they saw me walk without my cane. No, I didn’t need my cane that day. And they saw that.” 

Shortly after, Denise decided to continue her education at Ashford by earning a Bachelor of Arts in Health Care Studies in February 2013. She plans to continue on to the Master of Arts in Organizational Management. When we spoke to her last, she was happy to report that she is now living independently and no longer needs to walk with a cane. We wish Denise continued success in her educational goals as well as her personal triumphs.

*This program is no longer offered.

Questions? Request Information