78-Year-Old Great-Grandmother Vivian Cunningham Has Earned Her College Degree

Photo Credit: Stephanie Douglas/Samford University

Vivian Cunningham is proving that one is never too old!

The 78-year-old great-grandmother just earned her undergraduate degree in liberal studies at Alabama’s Samford University.

She told Today, “If I could have done cartwheels across the stage, I would have.”

It took Vivian – a retired Alabama Power Company worker, mother of two, grandmother of three and great-grandmother of three, six years to complete her degree in liberal studies.

She said, “I say follow your dreams, don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done, keep pushing and keep God in the plan

“My friends have called and told me that it has motivated them. And some of the young ones in my family, too. They said if I can do it, they can do it.”

The 78-year-old thanks her daughter, Tarra Barnes, son Donald Cunningham and her son-in-law, retired Army Col. Rob Barnes, as well as the Samford Office of Professional Studies director Bryan Gill and associate director Nicole B. Otero for keeping her on track.

“I felt like I wanted to quit at times, but they were behind me 100%. They kept pushing me,” Vivian said.

After working as a custodian for 29 years, Vivian Cunningham became the head of the mailroom for the Alabama Power Company and then retired in 1992. Using the company’s tuition reimbursement program, she earned an associate degree in paralegal studies from Virginia College. Not stopping there, she decided to continue her education.

“AARP tells us to take some classes and do something instead of just sitting down and being retired, so I kept going.”

AARP is a nonprofit organisation that empowers retired people.

The 78-year-old went to night classes with students that were half her age or younger. However, she had to transition to virtual learning during the pandemic.

“It was kind of hectic for me because I didn’t know too much about technology, so I had to have my daughter help me with that to learn to do it virtually.”

A true inspiration, the great-grandmother is even thinking of doing a master’s degree.

“I love to read to get more knowledge. I really love learning,” she said.