Woman Who Skipped Thesis in 1941 Gets Master's

'It's nice to be recognized,' says Virginia Hislop, whose education was disrupted by WWII
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2024 1:39 PM CDT
Woman Who Skipped Thesis in 1941 Gets Master's
Virginia Hislop, 105, accepts her Master of Arts in Education degree at Stanford on Sunday.   (Stanford University)

A 20-something Virginia Hislop was on the verge of completing a master's degree in education in 1941 when World War II threw a wrench in her plans. She'd completed all degree requirements but a final thesis when her fiance was called to serve. Hislop abandoned her studies to follow him to an Army post in Oklahoma so the couple could be wed. "I had no choice in the matter," she tells NBC News. As the Guardian reports, "focusing on the family was seen as the pinnacle of American sacrifice in that period." Some 83 years later, Hislop's sacrifice and accomplishments are finally being celebrated. At Stanford's graduation ceremony on Sunday, the 105-year-old accept a master's degree for which a thesis is no longer required.

"My goodness, I've waited a long time for this," Hislop said after walking across the stage with her cane, per ABC News. She never became a teacher but, after relocating to Washington state to raise two children, "I put my [undergraduate degree in education] to good use serving in committees and on boards and trying to improve the educational opportunities every chance I got," she told the Yakima Herald-Republic in 2018. Only recently, Hislop's son-in-law discovered a final thesis was no longer required for the Master of Arts in Education degree, meaning Hislop was eligible to graduate after all.

Sunday's crowd "broke out into a standing ovation," said Daniel Schwartz, dean of Stanford's Graduate School of Education, per the Guardian. "It was great to be able to celebrate someone who cared so much about learning, and dedicated her lifetime to other people's learning." Inspired by an aunt who served as a public school principal in Los Angeles when she was growing up, Hislop, now a Heritage University board member emerita, has said she came to see education as the route to a limitless future, something always worth fighting for. "I've been doing this work for years and it's nice to be recognized with this degree," Hislop said, according to Stanford. "False modesty has never been one of my problems," she added, per ABC. "I felt I deserved it, and I was delighted to get it." (More uplifting news stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.