93-Year-Old Ohio Woman Receives High School Diploma

March 11, 2016 Updated: March 16, 2016

Dorothy Louise Liggett has lived through World War II and the Cold War, has read a biography or autobiography on nearly every United States president and each’s spouse, and has raised grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

And, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, Liggett, the 93-year-old mother of five, graduated high school in 2016. 

On March 9, Liggett’s birthday, Akron Public Schools Superintendent David W. James presented her North High School diploma to her, correcting a 74-year-old injustice.

To have invested 13 years in school, to have been a good student and still not receive a diploma because of that, was simply wrong.
— David W. James, superintendent, Akron Public Schools

James was struck by a letter he received from Janice Larkin—Liggett’s 73-year-old daughter—detailing that in 1942 Liggett was denied her diploma because she was married.

The Ohio superintendent said he felt bad that Liggett suffered from an injustice that occurred “20 years before” his birth.”To have invested 13 years in school, to have been a good student and still not receive a diploma because of that, was simply wrong,” said James, “I wanted to do what we could to make it up to her.” 

Belated graduations and diploma awards ceremonies are not that uncommon, it seems. In a similar event several years ago, James recalls that he personally awarded a woman in a nursing facility with her high school diploma. An Ohio state law allows for any veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War who did not complete high school to be granted their diploma if they abandoned education to serve in the U.S. armed forces. 

Akron Schools Superintendent David James looks on after presenting a belated North High School diploma to Dorothy L. Liggett on her 93rd birthday on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Fairlawn, Ohio.  Liggett was a few weeks from graduation from Akron's North High School in 1942 when officials discovered she was married. Liggett and her late husband, John Huston, ran away to Kentucky to get married after her husband was called into the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. (Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal via AP)  MANDATORY CREDIT
Akron Schools Superintendent David W. James (L) presents Dorothy Louise Liggett (in cap) with her diploma. (Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal via AP)

John Huston, Liggett’s now late husband, had graduated in 1940, when Ligget was a sophomore. The couple eloped in Kentucky before Huston joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. and Liggett became pregnant with Larkin. Just two weeks before her graduation, the Akron Beacon Reports, Ligget had an argument with a gym teacher because she forgot her gym clothes. When the teacher insisted she go to study hall, Liggett retorted, “No. I’m married. I’m going home.”

This incriminating comment uttered in a moment of anger—as distressed teenagers are wont to do—lead school officials to discover her elopement and resulted in her expulsion from North High School. 

Larkin told the Akron Beacon Journal that she was inspired to write the letter because she felt “responsible.”

“She was pregnant with me when she was expelled,” said Larkin. “When we were growing up, my mother always insisted that I and my siblings finish school and go to college. She would tell us how important education is and say that the worst thing you could do is not finish school.”

Liggett said of her diploma, “Even though I’m 93-years-old, I still like having it.”