‘I knew I had it in me’: 80-year-old North Carolina woman earns 1st college degree


WILMINGTON, N.C. (WJW) — This weekend an 80-year-old North Carolina woman will put on a cap and gown, march across the stage and receive a degree has been fifty years in the making.

According to WECT, Leita McCormick will graduate from the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday.

McCormick took her first college course in 1966, however her husband’s job sent them moving from state to state for 20 years.  She took classes in the different places they moved but never finished her degree.

She says even though she took more than 30 years off, the thought of getting her diploma remained in the back of her mind.

After her husband died of Alzheimer’s disease McCormick devoted herself to finishing her education and earning her degree.

“All of my children, my grandchildren, everybody had a degree and I said ‘you know I think that is something I would like to add to my name,’” McCormick told WECT. “I really did it because I knew I had it in me, you know, to do it, and I … why not, you know? If you were to ask what was the most difficult part, I’ll just tell you it’s getting up to grade on the computer. I mean… believe me, it was all very new to me!”

But, McCormick embraced the challenges of being a nontraditional student and, according to her professors, was an “exemplary student.”  She was awarded the Cunningham Department Exemplar Award, one of the highest awards offered by the university’s communication studies department.

While her degree could open her to multiple career paths, McCormick says she plans to recommit herself to music and volunteer work.

Her children and grandchildren will be in attendance at her graduation ceremony on Saturday.

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