105-year-old collects master’s degree, 83 years after leaving campus

By MiNDFOOD

Virginia Hislop beams at the GSE's 2024 commencement ceremony after accepting her master of arts in education on Sunday, June 16. (Photo: Charles Russo)
Virginia Hislop beams at the GSE's 2024 commencement ceremony after accepting her master of arts in education on Sunday, June 16. (Photo: Charles Russo)
A student at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) has collected her master's degree at the age of 105.

Virginia ‘Ginger’ Hislop received a standing ovation from fellow graduates as she received her master’s hood at the GSE Diploma ceremony.

“My goodness,” Hislop said. “I’ve waited a long time for this.”

Hislop started at the GSE in 1936, where she completed a bachelor’s of education and then studied a master’s of education.

Just after completing her coursework and before turning in her final thesis, her then-boyfriend George Hislop, a GSE student in Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), got called in to serve during World War II, prompting the pair to get married and Virginia to leave campus before graduating.

“I thought it was one of the things I could pick up along the way if I needed it and I always enjoyed studying, so that wasn’t really a great concern to me — and getting married was,” said Hislop.

Now, 83 years after leaving campus and living in service to learning, Hislop returned to Stanford to finish what she started and receive her graduate degree.

“A fierce advocate for equity and the opportunity to learn … today we are proud to confer the master of arts in education to our 105 year-old graduate,” GSE Dean Daniel Schwartz said in a speech at the beginning of the GSE’s commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 16.

Virginia Hislop (right) accepts her diploma for her master of arts in education at the GSE’s 2024 commencement ceremony from Dean Dan Schwartz. She collects her degree after more than 80 years doing education work in schools and on school boards in Yakima, Washington. (Photo: Charles Russo)

In becoming a teacher, Hislop followed in the footsteps of her grandmother, who taught in Kansas before the Civil War, and her Aunt Nora, who was the principal of a school in West Los Angeles.

In many ways, Hislop’s work in education after leaving Stanford began with her children.

When her daughter Anne started first grade, Hislop advocated for her to be able to take advanced English, rather than a home economics course being suggested by the school.

“I felt that she could learn to cook at home and it was more important that she learn more academic skills at school,” said Hislop, whose daughter Anne Hislop Jensen and son-in-law Doug Jensen also graduated from the GSE.

After that first encounter, Hislop was compelled to join the school board to have more of a say in what children were being taught.

“I felt that all the kids should have an opportunity to develop their potential as best they could, and that everybody should have a crack at higher education if they wanted,” said Hislop. She stayed on the school board for 13 years before moving her involvement to the city, county and state level in Washington state.

Some of her roles included chairing the Yakima School Board of Directors; becoming a founding member of the board of directors for Yakima Community College, and helping to start Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington, where she served on the board for 20 years.

“I’ve been doing this work for years and it’s nice to be recognised with this degree,” she said.

Nowadays, Hislop spends most of her time doing community work, reading, socialising, and working in her garden, which is a routine she says has kept her sharp.

“The biggest lesson I’ve taken from her is that you never really stop learning,” said Doug Jensen, “She’s a voracious reader, and at 105 she’s still actively moving and shaking. No moss grows under her feet.”

Looking back on her career, Hislop credits her time at Stanford and the things she’s learned from community partners along the way for her ability to impact students.

“I think I did good things for our local school system and I helped broaden it out,” she said. “For me, this degree is an appreciation of the many years I’ve put in working for the schools in the Yakima area and on different boards.”

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