A 105-year-old woman received her master’s degree from Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) more than 80 years after she was a graduate student there.

Virginia “Ginger” Hislop enrolled at the GSE—then the Stanford University School of Education—in 1936 to get her bachelor’s degree in education. After getting the degree in 1940, she entered the master’s programme. She planned to teach after getting her master’s. She wanted to be like her grandmother, who taught in Kansas before the Civil War, and an aunt who was a Los Angeles school principal.

Studies cut short by war and marriage

She completed her coursework but had yet to submit her final thesis when her boyfriend George Hislop, a GSE student in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), was called to serve in World War II. The couple got married, and Virginia Hislop left the campus before graduating.

“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,” said Hislop.

Born in Palo Alto, California, she moved to Yakima, Washington.

When her daughter Anne started first grade in Washington, Hislop requested the school to let the child take advanced English instead of home economics.

“I felt that she could learn to cook at home and it was more important that she learn more academic skills at school,” said Hislop.

A Stanford family

Her daughter, Anne Hislop Jensen, also went to GSE like she and her husband did. Anne even married a GSE graduate, Doug Jensen, who got his Master’s in the same year as she, in 1968.

Hislop, meanwhile, served on the Yakima school board, was a founding member of the  Yakima Community College board, and helped start Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington.

Now the matriarch of a large family that includes two children, four grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren, Hislop looks back on a lifetime spent in education.

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

She was no longer required to submit a thesis to get her degree.

‘Tremendous educational accomplishment’

GSE Dean Daniel Schwartz said Hislop “led a life of tremendous educational accomplishment”.

“We are proud to confer the master of arts in education to our 105-year-old graduate,” he said at the June 16 commencement ceremony.

When Hislop rose from her sea in cap and gown to walk across the stage and receive her master’s hood, others applauded. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren waved and cheered.

“My goodness,” Hislop said. “I’ve waited a long time for this.”

Now, she spends most of her time doing community work, reading, socializing and gardening.

“The biggest lesson I’ve taken from her is that you never really stop learning,” said her son-in-law, Doug Jensen, “She’s a voracious reader, and at 105 she’s still actively moving and shaking. No moss grows under her feet.”


Sources: Stanford Education, Good Morning America, People

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