80-year-old grandma to graduate from UNCW nearly 50 years after starting degree

Positively Carolina

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT/CNN/WBTW) – An 80-year-old grandmother in North Carolina is finishing what she started more than 50 years ago…she’s graduating from college.

She’ll walk in her graduation ceremony at University of North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday.

When Leita McCormick walks across the stage at UNCW on Saturday, she’ll receive her first college 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 said.

McCormick took her first college course in 1966 and spent 20 years moving with her family all over the country, taking courses wherever they moved, but, she never finished a degree.

McCormick lost her husband to Alzheimer’s disease several years ago.

“After he passed away, it was time, it was time to devote myself to something that… for me to accomplish,” she said. “Because I knew I had it in me, you know, to do it, and I … why not, you know?”

But, she certainly faced some challenges.

“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,” McCormick added.

Despite those challenges — Rick Olsen, with UNCW’s Dept. of Communication Studies, says she proved to be an exemplary student, earning one of the highest awards in the department of communication studies.

“It wasn’t because she was a novelty act. It was because we sat around and said ‘who blended academic achievement, personal growth, embodied our ideals, embodied what we call our core skills that we want all our students to have — civility, responsibility, curiosity, problem solving — all of these things we know matter in the marketplace and matter in life’ and we said ‘who is that person?’ and we all went ‘it’s her,” Rick Olsen.


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