105-year-old Washington woman gets master's 8 decades after WWII interrupted degree

Ginnie Hislop would have gotten her master's degree a long time ago, had it not been for World War II.

More than 80 years later, the 105-year-old Hislop now has her master's in education, walking across the stage at Stanford University and getting her diploma at Sunday's ceremony.

“My goodness,” Hislop said in a news release provided by Stanford. “I’ve waited a long time for this."

105-year-old Virginia Hislop receives her master's degree in education diploma from Stanford University on June 16, 2024.
105-year-old Virginia Hislop receives her master's degree in education diploma from Stanford University on June 16, 2024.

A degree interrupted

Hislop first enrolled at Stanford in 1936, obtaining her bachelor’s degree in 1940. A year later, Hislop had completed all of her coursework for her master’s degree and was preparing to submit her thesis when her then-boyfriend George Hislop was called to serve during World War II.

The pair quickly married, departing campus before graduation for the U.S. Army outpost at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

“I thought it was one of the things I could pick up along the way if I needed it," Hislop said of the master's delay, according to Stanford. "I always enjoyed studying, so that wasn’t really a great concern to me − and getting married was."

After the war, the Hislops moved to Yakima, Washington, raising two children.

And while her formal education ended prematurely, Hislop put her talents to use. When her daughter Anne was in first grade, Hislop joined the local school board, advocating for the girl to be allowed to take an advanced English class, rather than the recommended home economics course.

“I felt that all the kids should have an opportunity to develop their potential as best they could, and that everybody should have a crack at higher education if they wanted,” Hislop said.

Virginia Hislop receives her master's degree in education from Stanford University on June 16, 2024.
Virginia Hislop receives her master's degree in education from Stanford University on June 16, 2024.

'No moss grows under her feet'

Hislop also served on school boards in Yakima at the city, county and state levels, became a founding member of the board of directors for Yakima Community College, and helped start Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington.

“I think I did good things for our local school system and I helped broaden it out,” she said, according to Stanford.

Nowadays, Hislop remains active in her community and tends to her garden. She also enjoys spending plenty of time with her four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

“The biggest lesson I’ve taken from her is that you never really stop learning,” her son-in-law, Doug Jensen, told Stanford. “She’s a voracious reader, and at 105 she’s still actively moving and shaking. No moss grows under her feet.”

Ginnie Hislop gets standing ovation at graduation

After eight decades, and with Stanford having adjusted its degree requirements to no longer require a thesis, Hislop was able to receive her diploma.

Her fellow graduates gave her a standing ovation.

“I’ve been doing this work for years," she said, adding: "It’s nice to be recognized."

Max Hauptman is a Trending Reporter for USA TODAY. He can be reached at MHauptman@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 105-year-old whose master's was interrupted by WWII gets degree

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