Country and gospel singer receives master’s degree from TSU at age 87

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University graduate Lorraine Guth is proof that it is never too late to get a degree.

The 87-year-old criminal justice major was among hundreds of graduate students participating in TSU’s May 6 spring commencement at the Gentry Complex. Guth graduated with a 3.8 grade point average. When she walked on stage to receive her master’s degree, just about everybody in the complex stood to their feet, applauded and cheered.

“It was so exciting,” Guth said after the ceremony. “Words can’t describe how I feel.”

It’s been a long, sometimes tough road for Guth, but she said in an interview before the ceremony that she was determined to further her education and she hopes her persistency inspires others.

TSU graduate student Lorraine Guth tries on cap and gown before May 6 graduate commencement. (photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

“Life is short, and you have to make the most of it,” Guth said. “We also should try to inspire other people.”

Guth dealt with life’s challenges early on. As a child, she struggled with a learning disorder. But miraculously, she said she gradually overcame the condition, to the point that she was making straight-As in the fourth grade.

“God always seemed to have His hand on me, and still does,” said Guth, who has a strong faith.

In high school, Guth made the honor society, and eventually began to hone a skill she said God gave her: singing.

Most of the songs she listened to and sang were in the country music genre, but it wasn’t long before she found her niche in gospel music.

Guth went on to record more than 10 albums; some country, but mostly gospel. She eventually was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame, and was named Entertainer of the Year by the Atlanta Society of Entertainers.

“She’s a very talented person,” said Phyllis Cole, director of the Atlanta Society of Entertainers and co-founder of the ACMHF, which gave Guth an “inspiration award.” “She’s just a delightful person, overall; an inspiration.”

Even though her music career was thriving, Guth said education was still important to her. In 2003, she got her undergraduate degree from Georgia State at the age of 74.

She later moved to Tennessee and decided to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice. Her hard work paid off on May 6 when family and friends watch her get her degree from TSU.

Guth’s great, great grandson, 14-year-old Ethan Earle, traveled from South Carolina to see her graduate.

“I think her achievement is great,” Earle said. “I hope it inspires other people to do better in life, especially to get an education.”

Dr. Alex Sekwat, interim dean of Graduate Studies and Research at TSU, said Guth’s achievement is a “testimony that it’s never too late to graduate from college.”

“Despite life’s daily challenges, Ms. Guth never made excuses in pursuit of her goals and dreams,” Sekwat said. “Her accomplishments should be an inspiration to all students and a testimony to all of us that with determination we can reach our goals and dreams.”

And Guth is continuing to follow her dreams. Now that she has her master’s, she plans to pursue a doctorate degree at TSU.

Dr. Michael Montgomery, coordinator of TSU’s Criminal Justice Graduate Program, said he ‘s glad Guth is continuing her education at TSU.

“I have every reason to believe that she will be successful in this endeavor as well,” Montgomery said.

Department of Media Relations

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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at