Elderly Woman Receives College Diploma 75 Years After Graduation

Ariel Cohen Contributor
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Jessie Rose Jones of Belfast, Maine couldn’t afford the $5 diploma processing fee for her graduation from Beal College in 1939.

After paying off the small fine this week, the 99-year-old woman finally received her degree in stenography and accounting during a special ceremony, complete with cap, gown and cake.

Jones reportedly put herself through college with a $500 dollar loan from her uncle. By the time of graduation day, she was clear out of money, and could not afford the diploma-processing fee, even though she had completed all her courses.

Jones, who has lived with polio since the age of 18 months, had to use crutches to get around the Beal campus as a student. Due to her disability, she struggled to find employment after college, but later found work as a bookkeeper, and later, a seamstress. Today she uses a wheelchair.

Seventy-five years after her would-be graduation date, a close friend of Jones, Dona Gilbert, learned of Jones’ story. Gilbert immediately contacted Beal College’s current President, Allen Stehle. Stehle was so touched by Jones’ story that he paid the $5 processing fee himself and organized a special graduation ceremony for the graduate.

“I’m glad I had to wait 75 years, because it was more fun than it would have been in the first place,” Jones said,

Family and friends came out to celebrate Jones’ diploma ceremony.  Along with her diploma, Jones was presented with a receipt—confirmation that her degree was actually paid for this time around.

At 99 years old, Jones continues her education everyday. She says that she loves reading and learning new things on Google. She even tried Facebook once, but found she prefers life without social media.

“Never give up learning” Jones said, “They say, you know, when you give up learning you grow old. So I don’t intend to give up learning.”

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Ariel Cohen