101-Year-Old Virginia Woman Attends College Classes

The undergrad at Richard Bland College proves that you’re never too old to learn something new. 

Ruth Thompson isn't your average college student. She's not just older than the students in her class, she's old enough to be their grandparent—or even great grandparent. Born in New Jersey on April 26, 1920, Thompson has lived for more than a century.

The 101-year-old, who has lived in her Dinwiddie, Virginia, home for more than 30 years, remembers when Herbert Hoover was in office. She remembers the day the stock market crashed, and she even remembers hearing about Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential election on her family's radio.

101-year-old Ruth Thompson in the entry of her home
101-year-old Ruth Thompson is an undergraduate student at Richard Bland College at William and Mary. Greg McQuade, WTVR-TV

She's lived through the World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and now a global pandemic. Certainly, a lot has changed since Thompson first sat in a classroom, but one thing that hasn't is her incredible thirst for knowledge.

"I'm enjoying learning," she told WTVR-TV's Greg McQuade. "That's one thing I've always loved doing."

Thompson is currently enrolled in Dr. Adam Zucconi's American Government class at Richard Bland College, a public junior college affiliated with William & Mary. She's been taking classes there on and off for the past seven years.

101-year-old Ruth Thompson sits in college lecture hall wearing mask
101-year-old Ruth Thompson attends American Government class at Richard Bland College. Greg McQuade, WTVR-TV

Professor Zucconi remembers the day Thompson first walked into his classroom at the ripe age of 97. Her passion for learning, he told WTVR-TV hasn't faltered a bit since then. He continued that the model student would make a good substitute teacher for his class.

"I want to understand why we're here. How America came to be," Thompson told WTVR-TV.

Though she only attends class on Thursdays, that doesn't mean Thompson takes the rest of the week off. Ever in pursuit of something new to learn, she spends much of her time surfing the Internet on her iPad or iPhone.

"I can entertain myself for hours," she said. "I look up stuff all the time. Me and Google are on a first-name basis."

101-year-old Ruth Thompson scrolls on her iPhone while standing at kitchen counter
Thompson often looks things up on her iPhone. Greg McQuade, WTVR-TV

An accomplished self-taught pianist, Thompson also keeps busy practicing daily. After all, she must stay nimble to perform at church on Sundays.

Unlike most college seniors who may be counting down the days until graduation, Thompson isn't looking to the future. A diploma isn't even part of the plan. So, what is? Relishing in the simple joy of learning.

"I'm not trying to stay young," she said. "I am just enjoying every day that I have. I can't imagine anybody being well and not wanting to enjoy life as much as possible."

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