Never too old: 99-year-old COC graduate is rolemodel

Doreetha Daniels

*To say that new college graduate Doreetha Daniels has lived through a lot would be a great understatement. The 99-year-old has lived through some of the most pivotal events in the historical fabric of America, including the Great Depression, World War II and the fall of Nazi Germany, the Civil Rights movement, the moon landing, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

Yet there is one thing she had not experienced…

Until now.

Going to college and earning her degree.

Daniels walked the stage at College of the Canyons on June 5; fulfilling a goal she had to earn her degree before she turned 100.

With this degree, Daniels, who was born in North Platte, Nebraska, makes history as the college’s oldest graduate in its 45-year existence.

“There will be some tears of accomplishment for sure. I understand that to earn a degree in college at age 99, that’s a bit unusual,” she said, as some of the schools’ proud faculty stood around.

Daniels was inspired to go back to school in spring 2009, after seeing her grandchildren earn their Masters degrees.

Obviously Daniels encountered risks and challenges completing tasks her much younger fellow collegians took for granted or may have breezed right through. Health issues notwithstanding (her drivers license was taken away after she suffered a second stroke), the mobility involved in getting to classes in different buildings on the campus in a timely manner, and learning how to step up to the demands of the digital age are just a few. She also experienced issues related to hearing class lectures and keeping pace with other students.

But Daniels was in it to win it! And that meant she had come too far to turn back now.

She knew that these challenges were par for the course, and she applied herself by studying harder and working with tutors. 

“Doreetha is a living testament to the saying ‘if there is a will, there is a way,’” said COC counseling faculty member Liz Shaker, who helped Daniels navigate the process of fulfilling her graduation requirements. “Her desire to get out of bed each day and come to school and face the challenges in and outside of the classroom inspired us all. She is truly an amazing woman who has impacted my life and I feel so fortunate that I was able to experience her journey alongside her.”

Last month, Daniels was asked to speak to some of her fellow students as part of a ‘Career and Life Planning’ course at the college. She chose to talk about the importance of education, and how youth should not be so easily distracted by the “toys” introduced with the digital age.

“It seems like the iPhones in their lap are sometimes more important to students than what’s going on in the classroom,” said Daniels. “I think somebody needs to say something or something needs to happen to show the younger ones how special and unique their opportunity to learn is.”

Kudos to you, Ms. Daniels! You are such an inspiration to us all.

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