99-year-old US woman receives college diploma 75 years later

Written by PTI | New York | Updated: May 27 2014, 23:09pm hrs
A 99-year-old woman in the US has finally received her college diploma after she failed to pay the required fee of USD five 75 years ago.

Jessie Rose White of Belfast, Maine, received a degree in stenography and bookkeeping after completing courses at Beal College in Bangor in 1939.

"I'm delighted!" White said, "I didn't have the money to pay for the diploma, so I didn't get it."

"I'm glad I had to wait 75 years, because it was more fun than it would have been in the first place," wheelchair-bound White said at a special graduation ceremony held yesterday.

White says she put herself through bookkeeping courses with USD 500 her uncle had given her years before she enrolled at Beal.

"It stayed in the bank, and he specified it couldn't be used for anything but education," White said.

White says she used all her money to complete the required courses and could not afford the USD 5 diploma fee.

Dona Gilbert, a friend of White's who recently learned about her plight, contacted the college to share White's story.

"She deserved a diploma. I just thought it needed to be done," Gilbert said.

Beal College President Allen Stehle presented White with her diploma.

"He gave me a receipt showing that it was paid for," White said. "He has a great sense of humour."

Diagnosed with polio at 18 months old, White used crutches to make her way around the Beal campus when she was a student. She struggled to get a job after because of her disability, working as a bookkeeper and later a seamstress.

Today, after a number of foot surgeries, White uses a wheelchair.

A regular on the computer and the Internet, White intends to keep pursuing an education.

"I've always had a great thirst for learning, and I try to learn something new every day. I'd love to go back to college now if I had the strength."

White was joined at her graduation by her son, daughter- in-law and three grandchildren.

"We're very appreciative of the care and attention to detail that was put into the graduation ceremony," said her son, William White.