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Published on May 15, 2024
Chicago's Dorothy 'Jeanius' Tillman, 18, Becomes Youngest to Bag Ph.D. at ASUSource: Unsplash/MD Duran

A teenage prodigy from Chicago, Dorothy Jean Tillman II has shattered records by becoming the youngest person to earn a doctoral degree from Arizona State University at the tender age of 17. Known affectionately as "Dorothy Jeanius," the now 18-year-old Tillman began her incredible academic pursuit at just 10 years old when she enrolled in her first college course. Tillman has amassed an impressive collection of degrees, including associate's, bachelor's, and master's, leading up to her most recent achievement, as reported by NBC Chicago.

Her grandmother, a former Chicago alderwoman, and her mother, whose guidance she followed closely, had inspired Dorothy Jean on this educational odyssey. After defending her dissertation in December, she walked the stage at the commencement ceremony held on May 6. "It’s a wonderful celebration, and we hope ... that Dorothy Jean inspires more students," Associate Professor Leslie Manson commented in an interview obtained by Fox News. "But this is something so rare and unique," Manson added, acknowledging the singularity of Tillman's accomplishment.

Tillman's academic skills were honed through online and remote classes, a path that led her to a doctoral degree in integrated behavioral health at Arizona State. During the commencement ceremony, she addressed the graduating class, marking a significant milestone. She told Fox News that the abnormality of her situation did not dawn on her "until it started getting all of the attention," though she admitted there were sacrifices made along the way, like missing out on typical high school experiences.

Despite the academic rigor, Tillman found time to indulge her passion for dance and choreography. She stands at the helm of the Dorothyjeanius STEAM Leadership Institute, an initiative she launched that includes summer camps aimed at fostering young talent in the arts and STEM fields. Her plans, as per NBC Chicago, involve public speaking and fundraising to potentially franchise the camp. Praising her visionary mindset, Manson believes Tillman truly "embodies that meaning of being a true leader."