80 year-old Beatrice Lillie achieves lifelong dream of a college degree

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Beatrice Lillie has held a lot of jobs.

She was a secretary in Harris County's Probation Department. She also owned an answering service before there was voicemail and cell phones. She was also a cosmetologist.

Now she has an associate's degree to add to her resume.

Beatrice is 80 years old, and walked the stage to receive her diploma at Houston Community College's graduation ceremony this month.

"I did it to set an example for my children and grandchildren," she said. "If grandma can do it, I can do it."

She completed the degree in four years. Most of her grandchildren are enrolled in colleges now.

She was encouraged to go back to school by another friend.

"I have three associate degrees," said Merline Williams. "I went back because my grandchildren were getting ahead of me. They knew about computers. I had to have my granddaughter fill out my college application."

Beatrice's degree is in business administration.

"I also learned about diversity and an appreciation for art," she said.

It expanded her horizons. It also inspired some of her classmates.

"There were young ladies who looked at me and said they could do it if I could do it." And Beatrice did.

She's comfortable with a computer now, but her time is spread among volunteering with seniors at the Northeast Houston Multi-Service Center, where Pastor Maceo Dillard Jr., is a mentor.

"It's important for people to keep going and engaging their minds, instead of just sitting back," Dillard said.

Beatrice plans to continue volunteering at the center, and involvement with her church, but she doesn't plan to pursue a new career.

"Should I say this?" she asked. "The truth is my back and legs hurt."

Her mind, though, is sharper than before.

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