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105-year-old wearing graduation robes and cap receives Master's degree at Stanford University.

105-Year-Old Receives Master's Degree as a Stanford Graduate

Charles Russo for Stanford University
Uplifting News

Woman Puts Her Education on Hold For Love - 8 Decades Later, She Receives Her Master's

In a story that proves it’s never too late to pursue your dreams, Virginia “Ginger” Hislop, at the remarkable age of 105, returned to Stanford University to finally earn her master's degree — a goal she put on hold over eight decades ago for love and family.

Why One Woman Put Her Academics on Hold

Hislop’s academic journey began in 1936 when she enrolled at Stanford University School of Education, passionately working towards a career in teaching. She successfully earned her Bachelor’s degree in education by 1940 and set her sights on obtaining a Master’s degree. However, life had other plans.

Just as she was about to complete her master’s program, World War II broke out. Her boyfriend, George Hislop, a fellow student and member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, was called to serve. Faced with this new reality, the couple decided to marry quickly. Hislop put her thesis and academic ambitions on hold, believing she could return to them later.

Reflecting on that time, she said, “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.”

Life After Leaving Stanford University

After leaving Stanford, Hislop’s life took a different but equally impactful path. She became deeply involved in politics in Washington state, initially spurred by a suggestion that her daughter Anne should take home economics instead of advanced English.

Hislop’s advocacy led her to serve on the local school board, where she began to make significant changes. She eventually chaired the Yakima School Board of Directors and was instrumental in founding Yakima Community College and Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington, serving on the board for two decades.

Decades passed, but the thought of completing her degree never left Hislop’s mind. Recently, her son-in-law, Doug Jensen, reached out to Stanford to explore the possibility of her earning her long-overdue degree.

As it turned out, Hislop had already completed all the required credits back in 1940, except for her master’s thesis. Fortunately, Stanford had since dropped the thesis requirement, meaning Hislop was eligible for her degree.

How One Centenarian Proved It's Never Too Late to Chase Your Dreams

On June 16, Hislop’s perseverance and lifelong love of learning were celebrated in a moving ceremony. She turned her tassel and proudly received her Master of Arts in Education, becoming the sole graduate of the class of 1940. Her march across the stage was met with a standing ovation, not just from her fellow graduates, but from a loving family that spans generations, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“My goodness. I’ve waited a long time for this,” Hislop remarked, capturing the emotion and significance of the moment.

Virginia Hislop’s story is a powerful testament to the enduring spirit of lifelong learning and the unwavering determination to achieve one's goals, no matter how long it takes.

Her journey reminds us that it’s never too late to chase our dreams and that education and passion can continue to enrich our lives at any age. It’s a heartwarming tale of love, resilience, and the timeless pursuit of knowledge, inspiring us all to never give up on our aspirations.

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