10 Oldest Students Ever to Complete a College Degree

Most college students are young and fresh out of college, but more and more older adults have realized the value of a degree. Even the elderly can achieve college degrees, and these 10 students amazed everyone with their educational feats. These college graduates achieved their degrees as late as their 90s, and show no signs of slowing down after graduation.

  1. Nola Ochs: At 95 years of age, Nola Ochs graduated with a bachelors degree next to her 22-year-old granddaughter, completed 77 years after she took her first class in 1930. Now 98 years old, she has reclaimed her top honor as the oldest graduate with a master’s in liberal studies with a history concentration. She plans to apply for a graduate teaching assistantship.
  2. Chao Mu-he: Known to his classmates as "Grandpa Chao," Chao Mu-he was the record holder for oldest college graduate in the world while Nola Ochs worked on her master’s degree. He earned his master’s degree in philosophy from Nanhua University in southern Taiwan. Mu-he took on graduate school after he was told he was too old to continue volunteering at a local hospital, hoping to do something more with his life than play mahjong or pick up a hobby.
  3. Hazel Soares: At 94, Hazel Soares finally had enough time to finish her college degree. She says it’s taken her a long time because she’s had a busy life, with 6 children and more than 40 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Soares has her excellent longevity to thank for her ability to complete school-she drives, visits her doctor only once every three years for a checkup, and doesn’t take any prescription medications.
  4. Phyllis Turner: Phyllis Turner of Australia completed her master’s degree at the young age of 94, and at the time, was the world’s oldest recipient of a master’s degree — she earned her degree in medical science. She quit school at 12 years of age to help her mother after they were abandoned by their father, and then went on to raise seven children and two stepchildren. Turner completed her grade school education by studying at night, and enrolled in college at the age of 70.
  5. Rev. Edgar Dowse: Reverend Edgar Dowse was an 88-year-old retired vicar in Britain when he began his doctoral degree. He already had six degrees, but felt a need to study after being widowed. He completed his degree at the age of 93 years and 268 days, making him the oldest Ph.D. in the world.
  6. Myrtle Shannon: Myrtle Shannon was 91 when she graduated from Roosevelt University with a Bachelor of Arts in History. Getting a degree was important to her, as her former slave grandfather encouraged her to get as much education as possible. Her post-graduation plans included a possible trip to Singapore.
  7. Mozelle Richardson: At 90 years and 103 days, Mozelle Richardson was, at the time of her graduation, the oldest degree graduate. She completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma in May 2004.
  8. Richard Campbell: Mr. Campbell earned a bachelor’s degree at the age of 82 at the University of Nevada, Reno, but this accomplishment seems small when compared to the rest of his life. He is a WWII veteran, and was able to enter law school without completing college. Earning student money as an elevator attendant at the US Senate, Campbell also met Richard Nixon, JFK, and Dwight D. Eisenhower along the way. He had a law practice until he had to retire due to a heart attack and 20 angioplasties, but wanted to stay active — so he enrolled in college to complete his bachelor’s degree. Mr. Campbell was an asset to his classes, bringing knowledge and maturity, and was even able to use a cell phone and take online classes.
  9. Herbert Baum: At 79 years old, Herbert Baum returned to complete his doctorate at the University of Chicago. He left in 1951 with a master’s degree, and just a dissertation short of earning his doctorate. He returned because he always felt something was unfinished by not earning his degree. He published a book, "The Quest for the Perfect Strawberry," which he sent to members of the dissertation committee. The book qualified as a complete dissertation, and Baum was invited to participate in a seminar and complete the requirements for his doctorate.
  10. Shirley Smith: After taking a 60-year break from school, Shirley Smith went back to graduate from Iowa State University. She’s a mother of 7, grandmother to 9 and great-grandmother of 4. Her post-graduation plans included reading the 500 books she acquired while working at a used bookstore.

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