105-year-old finally receives master’s degree from Stanford

Virginia "Ginnie" Hislop

STANFORD, Calif. — A 105-year-old great-grandmother walked the stage at Stanford University on June 16 to receive her long-awaited master’s degree.

Virginia “Ginnie” Hislop, of Yakima Washington, earned her bachelor’s degree in education at the Stanford University School of Education in 1940. She waited 83 years to receive her master’s, KAPP-TV reported. Born on June 12, 1919, in Palo Alto, California, she received her diploma four days after her birthday.

“My goodness. I’ve waited a long time,” Hislop said as she was handed her master of arts degree in education, according to the television station. “I always knew I wanted to go to Stanford.”

Hislop was Virginia Anne Sterry when she began taking courses for her master’s degree. By 1941, all she needed for her graduate degree was her master’s thesis, but that never happened.

Her fiancé, George Hislop, who also attended Stanford, was called into the military as the United States prepared for World War II.

The couple married in Pasadena, California, on Aug. 28, 1941, according to the Los Angeles Times. Ginnie shelved her quest for the master’s, according to “Good Morning America.”

The new bride went to work on the war effort in Oklahoma while her husband, a lieutenant, was stationed at Fort Sill. After the war, the couple moved to Yakima, Washington, KAPP reported.

“I thought it was one of the things I could pick up along the way if I needed it and I always enjoyed studying, so that wasn’t really a great concern to me,” Ginnie told Stanford in a news release. “And getting married was.”

The Hislops grew their family and had two children -- Anne, who was born in Oklahoma in 1945; and William -- four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, according to “Good Morning America.”

After moving to Washington State, Ginnie served in the Yakima School District and helped develop Heritage University in Toppenish, where she served on the board for 20 years, KAPP reported. She also chaired the Yakima School Board of Directors and was a founding member of the board of directors for Yakima Community College.

Hislop spends most of her time now doing community work, reading, socializing and working in her garden, according to Stanford University.

“The biggest lesson I’ve taken from her is that you never really stop learning,” said her son-in-law, Doug Jensen, who married Anne Hislop in 1968. “She’s a voracious reader, and at 105 she’s still actively moving and shaking. No moss grows under her feet.”

George Hislop died on July 5, 1986, in Yakima after a career as a livestock rancher, according to his death certificate. The Hislops had been married for nearly 45 years.

Life went on, and along the way, Stanford dropped its thesis requirement. That allowed Ginnie to accept her master of arts in education, ABC News reported.

“A fierce advocate for equity and the opportunity to learn … today we are proud to confer the master of arts in education to our 105-year-old graduate,” Daniel Schwartz, dean of the Stanford School of Education, said in a speech that kicked off the June 16 commencement ceremony.

After receiving her degree, there was no hiding Ginnie’s pride at her accomplishment.

“False modesty has never been one of my problems,” Hislop told ABC News. “I felt I deserved it, and I was delighted to get it.”

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