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78-year-old woman earns bachelor's degree after years of pursuing higher education

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Posted at 3:30 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 16:13:18-04

After a remarkable journey, a woman graduated from an Alabama university at the age of 78.

Vivian Cunningham received her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies at Samford University’s commencement ceremony last week.

The road to her degree wasn’t an easy one. Cunningham first worked as a seamstress in Atlanta before moving to Birmingham as a single mother of two in the late 1960s, according to a profile published by the university.

At one point, Cunningham traded her sewing career for a custodial job at the Alabama Power Company in order to provide for her children. Over time, she worked her way up to the power company’s mail room, eventually managing all the external mail.

Cunningham also took advantage of the company’s tuition reimbursement program and earned course credits from multiple colleges in the Birmingham area.

In 1992, Cunningham retired, but she continued taking classes. She ended up earning her associate degree in paralegal studies from Virginia College.

A few years ago, Cunningham enrolled at Samford after receiving a brochure. For six years, she worked to achieve her goal of attaining a bachelor’s degree.

“There were sometimes I wanted to give up,” Cunningham told the university.

And Cunningham may not be done with her education. She says she might pursue a master’s degree next.

“I don’t want to stop. I love to read, I love to sew, I love to watch movies. I don’t want to just sit because I’m retired. I want the knowledge,” she said.

For others wanting to earn a degree, Cunningham has some advice.

“Believe in yourself, because you can do it,” she told the school. “Keep God in the plan and you’ll make it. Don’t let anybody discourage you.”

Along with her two kids, ABC News reports Cunningham is now a grandmother and great-grandmother. She credits them with supporting her dreams.