SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio – Most seniors wait for years for the cap and gown, but for Ann Colagiovanni, it took a bit longer.
Ann – or Anna Lupica as she was known in the 1930s – was only 17 years old when she quit school. She helped fill relief orders for at her father’s Lupica’s Grocery Meat Market.
“It was the depression years and working was more important than getting your education,” said Ann’s daughter, Emilia Colagiovanni Vinci. “She did what her father wanted her to do, even though she wanted to graduate. She put her father, her family, before herself.”
But Wednesday, Shaker Heights High School bestowed the 97-year-old an honorary high school diploma—something Ann’s dreamt of her whole life.
“It is my great honor to present this diploma to you, and you’ll see it’s June of 1934,” Mark Freeman, Shaker Heights School District Superintendent, said to Ann. “That’s when we believe that would be the appropriate date.”
“Oh, my name is here,” Ann eagerly replied.
Ann had many achievements to be proud of, her daughter Emilia said. Ann continued working at the family market until it closed in the 1960s. Ann eventually married, has two daughters and 11 grandchildren. That diploma, however, was the one achievement she truly missed.
“When I told her she was getting a diploma, she sobbed as if a pain had been relieved from her heart,” Emilia said. “I never knew what it meant to her. She wanted this.”
As friends and family sang Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” Ann said the moment is something her father had always wanted for her.
“He’d be so happy to know that finally I’m going to be, I’m going to be a graduate,” she said.
And to top it off, Ann isn’t the only one celebrating. Her grandson, Thomas Vinci, is also graduating from Shaker Heights – just one day later.
“It’s a big moment for us,” Thomas said. “She looks so cute in that thing. I don’t even really know what to think.”
Though she won’t be walking with the rest of the class of 2012, Ann will cheer on Thomas and the rest of the seniors. It’s her dream – 78 years in the making – and will likely be one she’ll never forget.
“It’s amazing. Truly touching,” Emilia said. “People are going to be confused when they see a 97-year-old in a cap and gown, but she’s going to wear her cap and gown tomorrow. Just incredible. The people that came. It really touched my heart."