March 15, 2013

106-year-old woman awarded high school diploma

The Mansfield News Journal reports that Reba Williams was presented her diploma on Wednesday by Mount Vernon Superintendent Steve Short.
Technically, the nation’s high school dropout rate just dropped a fraction. Though it’s unclear if that counts toward 1925 or 2013.

Back in 1925, Williams finished all 12 grades at Mount Vernon but never received her diploma.
And it wasn’t a bureaucratic error. Williams was denied her diploma after she refused to read a book assigned by one of her teachers. It turns out Williams had already read the book, didn’t like it and refused to dredge through its pages again.

“I’d tell them what happened to me,” Williams told the paper. “If they expect to get anyplace in this world, they have to learn.”
In fact, it was a recent profile of Williams by the Journal that helped her finally get her diploma. A former teacher read the profile of Williams and presented her situation to the board of education who unanimously decided to award Williams her diploma.
Amazingly, one of the board members who helped make the case had recently been awarded her own diploma at the age of 95.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Williams said. “Isn’t that wonderful?”
Joining Williams for the occasion were a number of relatives, including her 88-year-old “baby” brother, Charles.

In fact, Williams has some distinct company. It was just last week that Massachusetts resident Fred Butler was awarded his own high school diploma at the same age–106. In fact, Butler expressed concern that he had not “earned” the degree, the ceremony for which was attended by a number of local figures including the mayor.

And despite her greatly belated diploma, Williams praised the Mount Vernon school system saying it provided students with the opportunity to embark on a lifetime of learning.
You can use it or not,” she said. “I was learning all the time.”

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