RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – While most graduating seniors are 17 or 18, Arkansas native Clara Anderson received the chance to get a high school diploma to call her own at the surprising age of 100.
Usually, students walking across the stage to receive their diplomas plan for years of life to live out the next chapter of their lives. However, Clara’s story is a little different.
According to a social post from Russellville High School, Clara’s family moved from Little Rock to Russellville in search of work during the Great Depression in 1938. The move caused Clara to transfer to Russellville High School, a school that did not offer the classes that she had at Little Rock High School.
Though she’d never taken French and Geometry, Clara was put into those classes in the middle of the school year, making it difficult for her. Learning another language and studying the dimensions of shapes may not have been Clara’s favorite thing to do, however, her love for choir led her to her meeting her boyfriend and future husband.
Once graduating, he left Clara behind to work in California. During her senior year, the two communicated through the mail. Toward the end of her first semester as a senior, Clara received a letter from her boyfriend with a train ticket asking her to join him in California.
With just one semester to finish, she boarded the South Pacific train to start a new life.
Clara regretted not receiving a high school diploma, however, that did not stop her from learning in life and reaching her goals. She went on to have successful careers managing a medical office and going into sales.
Now living in Florida, she is an avid crossword player, quilter and reader, and she even has started work on her autobiography. When her youngest great-grandchild was born, Clara told her doctor that she had to live to be 100 so she could see them graduate.
Even though she did not graduate in May 1940, officials with Russellville High School said they received the opportunity to award Clara with an honorary diploma, making her part of the class of 2022.
While her family had gathered to celebrate Clara turning 100 on May 21, her grandchildren had an extra set of surprises – her diploma and a cap and gown from Russellville.
Granddaughter Julie Wilson said it was a pleasant surprise for Clara, who passed along a love of learning to both Wilson and her brother Jay McBride, leading them both into the education field themselves.
The family wrapped up the celebration a week later with her great-grandchild’s graduation, showing that through the generations, learning can last a lifetime.