‘It’s never too late’: 83-year-old Nevada County woman graduates from CSU Chico
83-year-old Sylvia Hamilton has led a fascinating life. She’s raised four children, earned her pilot’s license, and hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon sans a pack mule.
She’s even been the top tier on a pyramid of water skiers.
With all of these adventures under her belt, the grandmother of seven recently added another huge accomplishment to her arsenal — she graduated college.
Her college career began at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, in 1962. For 56 years, Hamilton took college classes on and off through several different institutions. In May she finally walked across the stage at her graduation from California State University Chico, earning her degree in sociology.
“It feels wonderful,” said Hamilton. “I’m still walking around enjoying the whole thing.”
According to the Chico State Today, Hamilton is one of the oldest people to have graduated from the university in its 131-year history. In her two years as a student there, she never once missed a class.
Hamilton hasn’t done it alone. Her husband of 63 years, Wally, has been by her side throughout, encouraging her to make her dreams of higher education come true. The two became engaged in 1954 after a week of dating and have been going strong ever since. After Wally left his career in the United States Air Force, they moved to Nevada County in 1980 and both entered the real estate business.
“He was my inspiration, if you will,” she said.
Thanks to modern technology, Hamilton was able to complete her courses from the comfort of her own home. It wasn’t until the graduation ceremony that she came face-to-face with her classmates.
Hamilton has been inundated with messages over Facebook and Twitter, many from people she’s never even met. What is the most common message they share? “’Awesome!’” said Hamilton. “’It’s never too late. That’s so good to know. Way to go!’ (People say) I’m inspiring.”
“People are inspired by positive things like this,” Wally agreed.
Hamilton said she plans to use her degree to volunteer with local organizations such as Community Beyond Violence at its women’s shelter.
“I did my internship with (Community Beyond Violence) and that’s how I got interested in it,” she said. “Anything I would do would not be for pay, only to volunteer.”
Hamilton said she would also like to mentor young mothers who are looking to return to school. She said she couldn’t have achieved so much without the support of her family, and she feels every person deserves the same chance to succeed.
The weekend of her graduation was a busy one for her family. Hamilton shared her glory with her granddaughter Jenelle who graduated from Sacramento State, and her daughter Michelle who earned a medical coding certificate.
“It’s definitely worth it. It was a bucket list (item). You never know what life is going to throw at you.”
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com or 530-477-4231.
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