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105-Year-Old Woman Receives Her College Master’s Degree From Stanford After 83 Years

After years of waiting for her degree, Virginia Hislop has completed her college journey

In 1936, a young Virginia “Ginger” Hislop began her college journey at Stanford University. Now, 83 years later, the 105-year-old has officially finished by obtaining her master’s degree from Stanford University, where she began as a young woman.

After Hislop finished her undergrad years in 1940, she started to work towards her master’s degree so that she could fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher. When Hislop was attending, a final thesis was required to graduate with a master’s, and she had completed everything up to that final step.

But given that the world was in the midst of World War II and her then-boyfriend, George Hislop, was called to serve in the war, Virginia decided to step back from her studies. She and her boyfriend decided to marry before he left and she never returned to school.

I thought it was one of the things I could pick up along the way if I needed it and I always enjoyed studying, so that wasn’t really a great concern to me — and getting married was.”

How Virginia Hislop graduated from Stanford

woman receiving diploma on stage
Virginia Hislop receives diploma at graduation ceremony (2024)Via Instagram @stanfordeducation

Hislop’s son-in-law, Doug Jensen, recently contacted Stanford about her situation. The 105-year-old great-grandmother had all of the credits that were necessary to graduate at the time she left Stanford. All that was left was for Hislop to complete her master’s thesis, a requirement that has since been dropped from the school.

Because Hislop had completed every credit up to her thesis, technically she was within the requirements to receive her degree from Stanford University after all. Hislop recently attended her commencement ceremony on June 16.

The GSE Dean Daniel Schwartz said in his commencement speech, “A fierce advocate for equity and the opportunity to learn … today we are proud to confer the master of arts in education to our 105-year-old graduate.”

Hislop’s life after college

The now-graduate has shared, “I did my practice (student) teaching at a junior high school. I taught history and current events.” But she explained that after her husband was called up, she paused her education and “spent the next five years as an Army wife.”

“I didn’t return to teaching, but I feel I put my teaching certificate to good use serving in committees and on boards and trying to improve the educational opportunities every chance I got,” Hislop explained in a 2018 interview with the Yakima Herald-Republic.

woman on stage with diploma; stanford
Virginia Hislop at Stanford Graduation (2024)Via Instagram @stanfordeducation

When Hislop had children of her own, she learned that the middle school curriculum required home economics but didn’t require advanced English. Hislop took that as a reason to run for Yakima School District Board of Directors to make the changes she wanted to see.

Over the years, Hislop has been a great advocate for education. She raised funds to open up the women founded and led institution, Heritage University.

“It seemed to me that without an education, your future was limited and with an education it was unlimited,” Hislop explained.

Hislop’s life as a graduate

At her commencement ceremony, the dean said that Hislop has “led a life of tremendous educational accomplishment.” As the graduate crossed the stage and accepted her diploma, she was greeted with a standing ovation from her family and her other fellow graduates. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were all present at the ceremony to see their family leader accept her certificate.

“I’ve been doing this work for years and it’s nice to be recognized with this degree,” she said. “My goodness, I’ve waited a long time for this.”

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