A graduating granny

Ninety-year-old Eleanor Benz understands better than most that learning is a lifelong process. In the midst of the Great Depression in 1936, she left high school a few months shy of graduation to work and support her parents and six siblings. Then she married. And she had 15 children. And life got a little busy. Benz managed to squeeze in typing and bookkeeping classes at night school, but she never got that high school diploma, an oversight she considered her greatest disappointment in life. When Benz's children learned of this, they contacted the principal of Lake View High School, her suburban Chicago alma mater, who was more than happy to help. And at her 90th birthday celebration, her family presented her with her diploma, gown, and cap (with a 1936 tassel), and a wooden 1930s replica of her former school. Benz was "ecstatic"--she immediately donned her cap--but also realistic. "You know nowadays, even a high school graduation isn't enough. You need to go to college." While we'd have rather seen Mrs. Benz finish her coursework and earn her diploma properly, we'll be content with knowing that she probably learned more in 11 and a half years in 1936 than many a student graduating with a full 12 in 2009.

"73 years, 15 kids later, Eleanor is a high school grad," by Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times, June 6, 2009

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