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Archive for Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hays student may become world’s oldest graduate

Lifelong learner ready to celebrate 95th birthday

November 21, 2006

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— Like most students at Fort Hays State University, Nola Ochs plans to spend some time reading and studying during this week's fall break.

But she'll take time out on Wednesday to celebrate her 95th birthday.

Ochs is living at Wooster Hall on campus while pursuing her general studies degree at the university. She has about 15 hours to take next semester to get her degree.

If she does it, Ochs will be the Guinness Book of World Records' oldest college graduate.

But it also will be the culmination of a lifetime of learning. She started at Fort Hays in 1930, when it was known as Kansas State Teacher's College.

Then in the 1970s, in her 60s, she took classes part time at Dodge City Community College, and eventually St. Mary of the Plains in Dodge City. She took some virtual classes earlier at Fort Hays before deciding to attend classes this semester.

On Friday, the last day before fall break, her family and fellow classmates threw her an impromptu birthday party during her Biblical Studies class. Her son, Alan Ochs, flew in from Jetmore for the occasion. Her granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs, didn't have to travel as far - she's in the same class as her grandmother.

Nola Ochs, right, receives flowers from her adviser, Joleen Briggs, during her philosophy class Friday at Fort Hays State University in Hays. Ochs will be 95 on Wednesday.

Nola Ochs, right, receives flowers from her adviser, Joleen Briggs, during her philosophy class Friday at Fort Hays State University in Hays. Ochs will be 95 on Wednesday.

After the party, Alan Ochs took his mother home for Thanksgiving break.

"We're happy to get her back home for a while," Alan Ochs said. "We missed having her out there, especially through the fall harvest."

Though Nola is amused by her potential status as the world's oldest graduate, she said she's more excited about getting to walk at the graduation ceremony with her granddaughter.

Asked for some words of wisdom, Ochs simply said, "I give thanks to the Lord and try to live day by day. I try to do whatever is pleasing to him. That's what I want to do."

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