79-Year-old Coed Who Dropped Out in 1949 Finally Graduates

One paper assigned in Smith’s human sexuality class was on sex on campus. Smith wrote about what it was like 62 years ago.

“I lived in a dorm, everybody did. We were locked in by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, it was midnight,” Smith said. “The house mother blinked the lights at five minutes ’til and, believe me, if you were on the outside when the doors locked, you were in trouble!

“Dates with Vic were studying at the library. The guys were on the G.I. Bill and no one had cars or money. Even going to a movie was a real treat,” she recalled.

“This is not to say that there wasn’t sex on campus, I’m sure. It just wasn’t as blatant as now,” Smith said. Her paper was a big hit.

Kids today 
Smith doesn’t like being singled out in class to comment on things that happened before her classmates were born, or given special treatment on a standing-room-only bus just because she has gray hair. But she does appreciate all the friends she’s made across campus. Many acquaintances are astounded to learn that she’s not faculty or staff, but a student herself. (“It’s always a conversation starter!”)

“I LOVE the kids! I’ve really bonded with some. I want to stay in touch and find out what happens to them,” she said.

Smith has befriended some classmates on her Facebook page (which she uses to keep up with her family). But she isn’t a tweeter or a texter. In fact, she’s dismayed by how much time students spend communicating via technology.

“One student told me he’d come to college to interact with new people. But he’s not meeting anyone, because when students aren’t in class, they’re on their phones or plugged in. I just think they’re missing so much of college life,” she said.

Mission accomplished. Smith is finishing final papers, studying for exams and preparing to return to Oregon where her friends will host a party in her honor. She picked up her cap and gown the first day they were available. And she plans to attend all of the commencement activities.

“Believe me, I’m not going to miss a thing!” she chuckled.

“Everyone says that they can’t imagine doing this, they couldn’t do it. But I’ve always been a reader and loved learning new things. I’ve never stopped learning,” Smith said. “And this has been as interesting and as much fun as I thought it would be. I wouldn’t trade it for anything”

And during her first week at home, Smith says she’ll just sit and look at her diploma.

“I’m proud of myself. I’ve finally finished something I started 62 years ago.”

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