105-year-old woman earns master's from Stanford University

Virginia "Ginger" Hislop earned a master's degree in education from Stanford University this weekend at 105 years young. 

When she was given her diploma on Sunday, the Palo Alto native climbed gingerly up the podium stairs and beamed a smile while accepting her hard-won certificate, closing an educational journey she began in 1936. 

"My goodness," Hislop said. "I’ve waited a long time for this."

Her extended family was in the audience to witness her remarkable feat.  

Hislop already had her bachelor's degree, which she earned in 1940, but didn't finish her graduate work because her then boyfriend, George Hislop, was called to serve during World War II, prompting the pair to get married. 

Virgnia Hislop left Stanford before she was able to graduate, according to the Stanford Graduate School of Education. The only thing she had left to complete was her thesis. 

"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 — and getting married was," Hislop told the university news site.

Virginia Hislop is surrounded by her family at Stanford's graduation on June 16. Photo: Charles Russo/Stanford 

At the ceremony, Dean Daniel Schwartz called Hislop a "fierce advocate" for equality and education. 

The Hislops moved to Yakima, Wash., where they raised their children and some of this fierce advocacy reared its head. 

When her daughter, Anne, started first grade, Hislop fought for her to take advanced English instead of home economics. 

"I felt that she could learn to cook at home and it was more important that she learn more academic skills at school," Hislop told Stanford.

Anne Hislop Jensen and her husband, Doug Jensen, both earned their master's from Stanford's Graduate School of Education as well. 

"The biggest lesson I’ve taken from her is that you never really stop learning," 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."

Stanford officials told KTVU that her son-in-law contacted Stanford a while back to see if his mother-in-law could get her degree, since she was 105. It also turns out that the thesis is no longer part of the master's requirements. 

Stanford said yes. 

Hislop definitely deserved her degree, albeit 83 years later. 

Master's degree or not, Hislop has been active in education all these years. 

When her children were younger, Hislop joined the Yakima School Board of Directors, where she sat for 13 years, to have more of a say in what students were being taught. 

She also became a founding member of Yakima Community College and helped start Heritage University, where she served on the board for 20 years. She's also been involved in city, county and state politics. 

"I felt that all the kids should have an opportunity to develop their potential as best they could," Hislop told Stanford. "And that everybody should have a crack at higher education if they wanted." 

Virgnia Hislop, 105, graduated Stanford University with a master's degree in education. Photo: Charles Russo/Stanford