'I Knew I Wanted Something More,' Great-Grandma Earns College Degree At Age 78
Photo Credit: Samford University

'I Knew I Wanted Something More,' Great-Grandma Earns College Degree At Age 78

Vivian Cunningham may just be a great-grandma to her family — but she’s an inspiration to everyone else!

Samford University in Alabama has shared her story on their official website. This week, she will graduate from the school with a degree in Liberal Studies. The great-grandma is 78-years-old and needless to say, life threw her its fair share of curveballs before she was finally able to get her proper reward.

Cunningham, though, never let the challenges get her down, as her son Donald shared with the university.

“It was tough for her, but us being young, we didn’t really know,” he said. “She was taking care of her family, working at night at the power company, and couldn’t find babysitters to keep us, so I had to grow up and be a man before time, take care of my sister.”

Cunningham started out in Alabama’s Titusville neighborhood as a seamstress — which, given the times and the opportunities available to both women in general and Black women in particular, was all she thought she’d ever become. She would even sew “on the side” for extra money, while working a night shift as a custodian at a power plant.

Fate, fortunately, had other plans for the beloved great-grandma.

Cunningham realized that the power plant she worked for had a tuition reimbursement program, eventually obtaining her associate’s degree in 1992 from Virginia College, after she retired from the power plant.

“I knew I wanted something more,” she said.

So, armed with the associate’s degree and other earned credits, Cunningham went to Samford University with the intent to pursue her liberal arts degree — a degree which she would eventually get later this week. Even though COVID-19 sidelined her slightly, she didn’t let the pandemic get her down — and says she has no plans to stop with the bachelor’s degree.

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