Anyone who ever thought that a person was too old to do something has never met 101-year-old Merrill Pittman Cooper.
After all, he was able to get his high school diploma in March after waiting more than 80 years.
The diploma was given to Cooper during a surprise graduation ceremony. Local school officials were involved in setting things up and they worked along with his family to ensure that the commencement celebration went off without a hitch.
Cooper grew up in the 1930s when segregation was still a reality in many parts of the United States. As a black teen, he had difficulty getting a good education and discrimination was a constant issue. At the same time, however, he valued what he was learning.
He was even able to get admitted to a high school program at Storer College after finishing the eighth grade and passing a test. That boarding school, which was founded in 1867 just after the Civil War, was to help formerly enslaved children. Even Frederick Douglass was one of the trustees.
After attending the school from 1934 to 1938, he had to drop out before getting his diploma. He was responsible for taking care of his mother and he was an only child. According to the Washington Post, when he realized that his mother could no longer pay the tuition, he felt that it would be best to give up going to school.
From there, he soon became an operator of a city trolley in Philadelphia. That started in 1945 and he continued on with working in the transportation industry and even worked his way to be the president of the local union. Despite his career, he always looked back on his youth and wondered what it would’ve been like if he would’ve graduated.
According to the Washington Post, he said: “As time went on, I thought it was probably too late, so I put it behind me and made the best of the situation. I got so involved in working and making a living that my dreams went out the window.”
Even though he had lived for many years, he never gave up on his dream to get his high school diploma. That dream came true during a visit to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which is where the old Storer College exists. He was going to speak to historians about his time in the school but his family had other ideas.
They worked along with the local Jefferson school district to make sure that he would be surprised with his honorary high school diploma. When he learned about it, he was in tears.
They gave him a burgundy cap and gown and he was presented with the diploma by the school superintendent. She had come all the way from West Virginia to meet him and to celebrate along with him.
If you are now looking for his high school diploma, you can find it in a frame on his bedroom dresser. He said that he couldn’t think of a happier day and even though it had taken him a while, he was “really happy to finally have it.” Check out the video below:Whizzco