Tennessee Grandmother and Granddaughter Graduate College Together

“No matter what you do, learning never stops. Even if it's auditing a few classes, there's always that option."

Last month, 42 years after she took her first college class, Pat Ormond received a bachelor's degree in anthropology from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). And the 74-year-old did so alongside her 22-year-old granddaughter, Melody.

"I always knew that I was going to graduate from college," Melody told CNN. "I just never knew that my nana was also going to be there."

Pat and Melody Ormond
Angela Foster/UTC

Pat, who is just shy of turning 75, took her first college class at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta in 1978. After one semester, she dropped out to move to Chattanooga. While she took occasional classes at UTC in the decades that followed, she never did manage to get a degree.

A few years ago, after retiring from a career as an accountant, Pat's family began encouraging her to return to college full time. At first, Pat she it seemed like silly idea to go back to college when she was in her 70s. But her family continued to push.

"It was a little difficult, sort of a resistance to change and just the generally typical idea that, 'I don't want to go to college. I'm too old for college,'" Melody recalled to UTC's blog. "And I was, 'That's a lie. Of all the women in our family, you inspire us to know that we can do anything at any age.'"

In 2017, after a year at Berea College in Kentucky, Melody decided to transfer to UTC to study psychology. That was when Pat finally took the leap. They both enrolled at UTC with enough college credits to make graduating together a possibility. And on Friday, November 20, that's what they did.

It was always their plan to graduate together, but Pat sometimes had to take five courses per semester, plus labs, to make it happen. Despite her course load, she ended with a 3.79 grade point average and is a member of the Lambda Alpha National Anthropology Honor Society. And she's already working on another bachelor's degree, in history.

Pat told CNN that hopes to be an example to other nontraditional college students.

"Learning never stops," she said. "That's something that my father instilled in me when I was younger. No matter what you do, learning never stops. Even if it's auditing a few classes, there's always that option."

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