At Age 63, Student Becomes Oldest Graduate from Holy Family’s Nursing Program

Experience becomes a benefit for this future nurse

Jim Cummings

He has 15 years of postsecondary education—a bachelor’s degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology, and completed doctoral work in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania—but throughout his academic and professional journey, as he evolved he looked for a career that he could be truly passionate about.  At the age of 63, JimCummings has finally found it—a career in Nursing.  

Through Holy Family’s 2nd Degree Nursing Program, Cummings will graduate with a B.S. in Nursing in July 2023.

In the 1970s, Cummings decided he wanted to be a scientist.  Beginning with physics, then finding neuroscience, he determined a scientific career was not for him. So he left the field to become an environmental and social justice activist in Philadelphia. In addition, he worked as a library paraprofessional staff for the University of the Sciences.  But as he homeschooled his son, he remained on the lookout for a career that would truly speak to him. Eventually, he would discover that the combination of science, lifelong learning, and caregiving would produce an interest in healthcare.

Holy Family University had an accelerated program that was the deciding factor for Cummings. Like other Nursing alums, he will soon take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, known as the NCLEX exam, and will begin pursuing opportunities as he prepares for the qualifying licensure test.

At this point, he is considering work in palliative and end-of-life care which marries the work he has done as a peer counselor for the past 25 years and his ability to listen to one others’ life stories.

When asked how his experiences might prepare him differently, Cummings notes,
“Understanding how to support people – therapeutic communication – feels like common sense to me. Life experience brings a sense of empathy. As a parent, this, too, has been extremely helpful in providing perspective. I am a better human being when I connect with other people.”

In offering advice to others who may be looking for a second career and perhaps a Nursing career later in life, he adds:
“I am fortunate to be academically strong – my science background really helped me with the program. To others looking to explore this same path, I would say, don’t let anyone tell you what kind of person you should be.  I wasn’t even interested in caregiving until I was in my late-30s.  I wasn’t interested in anything medical until my mid-50s.  Notice what is really meaningful to you.  And then pursue it.” 

In pondering some of the most valuable lessons learned in pursuing this degree, Cummings noted:
“I was the first person in my family to finish college.  I learned what Nursing was and that there are so many things I can do with this degree. I have volunteered for the syringe exchange program in Kensington and trained people on the street to reverse opioid overdoses. I worked on a manual for volunteers. I also loved my work caring for and supporting self-determination in people with intellectual disabilities. Public health is really important but overly ignored. With nursing, I can make a career out of direct service to people”

“Holy Family has so many relationships within the healthcare community. This is a place where nurses come from.  I didn’t know much about Holy Family beforehand and I came here for the affordability and the fact they are in Philadelphia. The idea of caring for underserved urban populations holds great appeal to me.”


Sherrie Madia