Reading: 156: Ann Dowsett Johnston (Graduating from Smith College at Age 67)

156: Ann Dowsett Johnston (Graduating from Smith College at Age 67)

June 3 2022

When Ann Dowsett Johnston attended her son’s graduation from Smith College she felt a “deep pang” that she says sounded like, “I will die and never have done this.” With her son’s encouragement, Johnston applied to Smith and moved into the student dorm with 25-year olds the next year. “I had broken my ankle and was in a wheelchair,” she says. “I was as old as many parents or grandparents. It was a phenomenal experience.”  After graduating Johnston, a Canadian, who had been a journalist, then vice-principal of McGill University, launched her career as a psychotherapist at age 67 dealing with women in transition–”to post-retirement, wrestling with substance abuse or career disappointment”.  When she found she missed writing, she dug into a topic she knew well: alcohol addiction (she is now 13 years sober). In 2013, she wrote the best-selling book, “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.”  Today she runs memoir-writing workshops (“Writing Your Recovery”) in which she encourages women to tell their own stories of triumph over grief, substance, or burnout. “We have book proposals in the alumni group before international agents now,…articles in major magazines… pieces submitted to contests,” she says. “My approach to life is that we live in chapters. When friends are retiring, mine is fresh and inspirational. It’s very new. I plan to work until I’m eighty to pay off my student debt!”