That was the only word to describe Cristi Buttè as she strode onto the turf at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field for Arkansas Tech University summer commencement on Saturday, Aug. 7.
“After waiting 40 years to finish my bachelor’s degree, I finally did it at 61 years of age,” said Buttè, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in health information management. “My children are grown and here today. It took me a while to finish, but it’s never too late. I’m very proud. It wasn’t easy, but dang was it worth it.”
Her distinctive red eyeglass frames shimmering in the morning sunlight, Buttè raised her arms triumphantly into the air as she took her place among the graduates who completed their ATU degrees and credentials during the summer 2021 terms.
“It was a personal goal,” said Buttè. “I always wanted to finish. Life got in the way, but things fell into place and it was destiny. I had the opportunity, and I grabbed at it. I’ve had many good friends who have graduated from (ATU) and I’ve heard many great things, so I’m proud to be a graduate from here.”
A resident of Paris, Buttè said Arkansas Tech was the right place at the right time for her to complete her degree. She credited her faculty mentors in the ATU health information management program for their support in making her academic achievements possible.
“We’re a small department, but we’re mighty,” said Buttè. “They were there at every turn. I couldn’t have done it without their help.”
As she left the stadium, degree clutched in her hands, Buttè had already turned her focus to the future.
“This is just the beginning of a new season,” said Buttè. “I’m 61 years old, so who knows? I feel like finally I can make those dreams come true. I have a beautiful family…been there, done that. Now I can do it for me and try to do good things in patient care and health sciences. I’m looking forward to it.
“My motto has been it’s never too late,” continued Buttè. “Be a lifelong learner. Just make the time. There’s always time if you can just scooch a little for yourself here and there. I know it’s difficult, but never give up. You’ll get there.”