At Age 111, You Can STILL Get a High School Diploma!

Sometimes circumstances keep you from doing what you should.

Lela Burden was a 15-year-old school girl in Virginia, when the Spanish Flu struck her town.

spanish flu

Lela’s high school was closed, and students told to stay home.

Not Lela.  She went to work.  Two jobs, in fact.

It was 1918, and money in her pocket felt so good, that when the flu epidemic passed, Lela decided not to go back to high school.

Lela Burden’s graduation day!

Lela Burden’s graduation day!

In 2014, 96 years after dropping out of school, Lela got her diploma.  She was 111-years-young.


  • Question: Did she go back to the classroom and take geometry and history?

  • Answer: No, it is just an honorary diploma, but it recognizes a life well lived. It shows that circumstances can’t keep a good person down.

Lela is officially the oldest person to be given an honorary high school diploma. 

I’m not old yet. I’m still a young lady.
— 111-year-old Lela Burden of Virginia
We hope we look this good at 111.

We hope we look this good at 111.

Way to go, Lela!

Sometimes, our choices keep us from doing what we should.

make good choices

In 1942, Dorothy Liggett was just a few weeks from getting her high school diploma in Ohio. 

She forgot her gym clothes, so the teacher told her to go to study hall.

1940's girls gym clothes

Dorothy wasn’t having that!  She blurted out,

“No.  I’m married.  I’m going home.”

Married?  WHAT??

Yup.  She and John Huston, who was a B24 pilot in the US Army Air Corps, had run off to Kentucky and secretly gotten married.

And married girls were not allowed in high school.

As Dorothy stormed home to her parent’s house, who didn’t know she was married, she thought to herself,

“Oh, my gosh.  I shouldn’t have done this.”

Dorothy was expelled, and denied her high school diploma. And she called this the Stupidest Thing I Ever Did.

  • The Stupidest Thing I Ever Did: She didn't mean sneaking off to get married. That turned out pretty good for John and Dorothy Huston, who were married for 66 years before John’s death in 2007.

  • The Stupidest Thing I Ever Did was not graduating high school. Her five children heard it all the time, “You kids have to have your education.”

You kids have to have your education.
— Dorothy Huston of Ohio
John and Dorothy Huston

John and Dorothy Huston

Yes, it was Dorothy’s poor timing that kept her from graduating from high school.

But, as a surprise for her 93rd birthday, Dorothy’s five children arranged for her graduation to be recognized.  She graduated officially from high school 75 years late!

Dorothy Huston’s graduation day, 2016

Dorothy Huston’s graduation day, 2016

All of us have done something stupid.

Our kids do stupid things, too.  But our children are amazing, also. Perhaps they drive us crazy at times; maybe their choices make life chaotic. But each child is special, and is your gift.

Even on the days you wish there was a return policy on children!

jumping boy

What did you take away from Lela or Dorothy's story? Are you amazed? Surprised?  Do you know any inspiring graduation stories? Write us back and let us know.

PS. What do you want to finish? What do you want to begin?