Speed Reads

it wasn't all bad

After going back to college, great-grandmother inspires relatives to continue their education

Vivian Cunningham's love of learning brought her back to the classroom in her 70s, and this retired great-grandmother of three has inspired several of her younger relatives to further their educations.

"I say follow your dreams, don't let anyone tell you it can't be done, keep pushing and keep God in the plan," Cunningham told Today. The 78-year-old earned her associate's degree while working at the Alabama Power Company as a custodian and head of the mailroom, but she wanted to keep going and earn a bachelor's degree. Six years ago, Cunningham enrolled at Samford University, taking night classes.

It wasn't easy going back to school, Cunningham said, and at times she felt like quitting, but her family was "behind me 100 percent," she said. They were also motivated by Cunningham — after seeing their mom and grandmother giving it her all at school, Cunningham's daughter enrolled in the PhD program at North Carolina A&T and her grandson went to earn his master's degree at the University of Miami.

Earlier this month, Cunningham graduated from Samford with her degree in liberal arts, as her elated family looked on. "If I could have done cartwheels across the stage," Cunningham told Today, "I would have."