June 2, 2010

USA: 75 Year Old Woman Graduates from Harvard

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Florida / WJHG / News / June 2, 2010

For previous generations of high school grads, a college education was out of reach. A Walton County woman recently proved it's never too late to learn.

Reporter: Meagan O'Halloran

A lot of students, graduating from high school this week, will be heading to college in the fall.

It wasn't always that way.

For previous generations of high school grads, a college education was out of reach.

A Walton County woman recently proved it's never too late to learn.

"I don't think the smile ever left my face. This is real, i walked into Harvard Yard"...

And 2-years later, at the age of 75, Martha Heller walked out of Harvard with an Associate of Arts degree.

"You wouldn't of believed me. I danced, I cried, I laughed, it was one of the happiest moments in my life."

But things haven't always been this good for Martha Heller.

She's lost half of a lung and has been in-and-out of hospitals battling cancer.

Even still, it hasn't slowed her down.

"I was told one time by one of my young classmates that I set quite an example for her. I had been in the hospital with lung trouble and I had a class I didn't want to miss; so I convinced my doctor to let me out and take a cab to school. I had all these lines running in my arm, and whatever I had on was short sleeves because the clothes I went to the hospital in were all i had. So I go to class with all these tubes hanging from me. She said to me later, 'I stay home if I have a cold and look what you did".

Martha says she inherited her work ethic from her father, who always told her it's never too late to learn.

"If you don't try you don't know, and I will never forget his words because it really inspired me. I think of these things sometimes when I think 'Oh, what am I taking on, can I do this?" Well if I don't try I'd never know how things would turn out".

People often tell Martha she should write a book, but Martha says she doesn't have time.

She's going back to Harvard on Thursday for summer classes.

She did offer these parting words of wisdom:

"Life isn't over when you get old, there's still a lot that you can do."

Martha is enrolled in the Harvard Extension School where the graduation rate is a little more than 3%.

Meagan O'Halloran
E-Mail: meagan.ohalloran@wjhg.com

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