105-Year-Old Stanford University Student Earns Master's Degree

Mrs Hislop celebrated receiving a master's degree in education from Stanford University-83 years after leaving the campus just short of earning the degree.

105-Year-Old Stanford University Student Earns Master's Degree

Hislop had aspirations of attending law school

Virginia Hislop has dedicated her entire life to expanding access to education. Now, at the age of 105, she has finally completed her academic journey.

On Sunday, Mrs Hislop celebrated receiving a master's degree in education from Stanford University-83 years after leaving the campus just short of earning the degree. Her son-in-law contacted the university and learned that her final thesis, the last requirement she had not fulfilled, was no longer necessary.

"I've been doing this work for years and it's nice to be recognized with this degree," Mrs Hislop told Stanford for a story about her nearly lifelong journey to a stage on campus, where a diploma in a Cardinal-red cover was placed in her hand.

In 1941, just before the United States entered World War II and with her fiance about to be called to serve, Hislop decided to forgo her thesis.

Despite this, her time at Stanford, which began in 1936, was productive. She earned an undergraduate degree in education and moved directly into postgraduate studies.

Hislop had aspirations of attending law school, but her father refused to pay for it, so she chose the shorter path to a teaching career.

Having completed the coursework for a master's degree, she only needed to submit her final thesis. However, instead of finishing it, she told NBC Bay Area that she left town for a honeymoon in Oklahoma near her husband's Army post at Fort Sill.

"Not my idea of a place for a honeymoon," she told the station, "but I had no choice in the matter."

At the time, sacrificing her career for marriage and a future family was viewed as a contribution to the war effort and a sacrifice for America.

Hislop, who grew up in Los Angeles, moved to Yakima, Washington, after the war, where her husband George joined the family ranching business.

They raised two children, allowing Hislop to focus on a passion ignited during her days in Palo Alto: education.

"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," she told the Yakima Herald-Republic in 2018.

She opposed middle school curricula that mandated home economics but not advanced English for her daughter. To address this, she ran for and won a seat on the Yakima School District Board of Directors, as reported by the publication.

Hislop also successfully campaigned for the creation of independent community college districts in Washington state, at a time when Yakima's two-year college was still part of the K-12 district.

She was eventually recruited to raise funds for what would become Heritage University, a women-founded, women-led institution located about 20 miles south of Yakima.

She initiated the school's annual Bounty of the Valley Scholarship Dinner, which by 2018 had raised nearly $6 million to support students attending the institution. Hislop is listed by the school as a board member emerita.

At Pacific Northwest University, a medical and health sciences school in Yakima, a scholarship named the Virginia Hislop Emergency Fund honours her contributions.

Her dedication to broadening access to education may have been inspired by an aunt who was the principal of a public school in West Los Angeles' Sawtelle Japantown neighbourhood during Hislop's childhood in L.A.

Sawtelle, initially established as a housing and care facility for disabled Civil War veterans, eventually developed into a community largely populated by Japanese Americans and Latinos.

"Aunt Nora would tell us about some of the Hispanic students in her school and how they were doing and the difference that education made for them," she told the publication. "It seemed to me that without an education, your future was limited and with an education it was unlimited."

On Sunday, Daniel Schwartz, dean of Stanford's Graduate School of Education, presented Hislop with her master's diploma, smiling broadly as he described her as "a fierce advocate for equity and the opportunity to learn."