87-Year-Old Doctoral Student Proves It's Never Too Late to Learn

After almost 60 years in radio broadcasting, Wendell Mayes Jr. is pursuing his doctoral degree to research how personal emotions affect business decisions.

Wendell Mayes Jr.April 2011—Wendell Mayes Jr. speaks in a slow, considerate tone. The Walden University Ph.D. in Applied Management and Decision Sciences (now Ph.D. in Management) student is personable and acts much younger than his 87 years. The Austin, Texas, resident earned a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science in 2002 and a Master of Liberal Arts with a specialization in history in 2005 from a local college before turning to Walden for the flexibility of its programs.

Mayes, who is specializing in Finance because his current work involves managing investments, is determined to finish his dissertation and complete his Ph.D. by 2012. “I want to write my dissertation on the impact of emotions on important decisions,” he explains. “Why do people buy or sell the particular securities in their portfolios?”

In his literature review research through Walden’s online library, Mayes has found a lot of information on how emotions can affect decisions—“stumbling blocks are out there,” he says. “But there’s practically nothing citing actual decisions people have made about why they invest.” He hopes to conduct an online survey to start gathering that data, which will inform his dissertation research.

Mayes says his perpetually inquisitive nature is innate. “My family has been in the news business since the 1880s,” he says. “My grandfather started the journalism school at a university in Texas, and my father was a journalist. You could say news—and research—is in my genes.”

Mayes spent almost 60 years as a radio-broadcasting and cable-television executive, and more than 30 of those also working to improve the lives of people with diabetes, before returning to school. “When my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, his pediatrician asked me to work with the American Diabetes Association,” Mayes says. By working as a board member for that and other nonprofits, he was able to effect social change by applying his knowledge of finance. “I was able to help put them in better financial and structural shape,” he explains.

What’s his advice for current and incoming Walden students—at any point in their lives? “You have to set your mind to accomplish your goals,” he says. “Do whatever is required of you to get the most out of it. Be determined.”