Great-Grandma Earns College Degree at the Age of 78


A 78-year-old-great-grandmother has achieved one of her dreams by earning an associate’s degree from Samford University.

Vivian Cunningham is very passionate, especially when it comes to learning. And she’s a woman who wears many hats: she’s a retired employee of the Alabama Power company, a mother of two, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. But none of those things ever dimmed her love of learning.

Cunningham spent a long time out of school, including 29 years working as a custodian. She was then head of the mailroom for the Alabama Power Company.

When she retired, she used Alabama Power’s tuition reimbursement program to study paralegal at Virginia College, earning an associate’s degree. But Cunningham wanted to continue her education, and enrolled at Samford.

Watch: Vivian Cunningham earning her bachelor’s degree – to always ‘believe in yourself’



She took night classes for years with students half her age or younger, but with the pandemic, Cunningham had to adjust to learning remotely. “It was kind of hectic for me because I didn’t know too much about technology,” she said.

There were times she wanted to quit. But she credits her family for helping her push through. And in turn, her degree from Samford has inspired her daughter to pursue her PhD, and has pushed friends and family alike to pursue dreams of their own. “They said if I can do it, they can do it too,” she explained.

In an interview with TODAY she advised, “Follow your dreams, don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done, keep pushing and keep God in plan.”

Cunningham plans to take her own advice. After achieving an associate’s and bachelor’s degree, she is now thinking of pursuing a master’s.


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