78-year-old Vivian Cunningham is a retir-ed worker, mom, grandmother and great-grandmother — and just graduated from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama,. The great-grandmother spent six years working toward her degree in liberal studies before finally getting to walk acr-oss the stage on Saturday and receive her diploma in front of her family, according to the outlet.
“I say follow your dreams, don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done, keep push*ng and keep God in the plan,” Cunningham told Today. “If I could have done cartwheels acr-oss the stage, I would have.”
Pr*o* to the exciting moment, Cunningham spent 29 years working as a custodian, and later, the head of the mailroom for the Alabama Power Company, according to the outlet.
She retir-ed from the job in 1992 but capitalized on the company’s tuition reimburs-ement program and went on to earn her associate’s degree in paralegal studies from Virginia College, Today reported.
With extra time on her hands and her love for learning still present, Cunningham — who has two children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren — told Today that she decided to pursue another degree.
“AARP tells us to take some classes and do something inst-ead of just sitting down and being retir-ed, so I kept going,” she explained to the outlet. “I enjoyed being in the classroom.”
Cunningham began her journey by taking night classes at Samford University before switching to virtual classes am!d the p*ndem!c, according to Today.
“It was kind of hect!c 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 virtu-ally,” she recalled of remote learning.
Along the way, Cunningham told Today that her family — specifically, her daughter Tarra Barnes, son Donald Cunningham and son-in-law, retired Army Col. Rob Barnes — were all very supportive and kept her motivated.
She also credited Samford’s Office of Professional Studies director Bryan Gill and associate director Nicole B. Otero for encouraging her and helping her make it to graduate.
“I felt like I wanted to quit at times, but they were behind me 100%,” Cunningham told Today. “They kept p*sh*ng me.”
Added Tarra: “We’re so elated. She set a goal, and it took her a little journey to get there, but she finished it. She really has motivated our family.”
And that’s no exag-gerati-on.
While Cunningham was completing her college degree, she inspired her daughter to also return to school and earn her PhD at North Carolina A&T, the outlet reported.