Great-Grandmother Earns College Degree at 78

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Vivian Cunningham is a retired Alabama Power Company worker, mother of two, grandmother of three, and great-grandmother of three. She is also, as of this past weekend, a college graduate.

Cunningham spent six years working toward her degree in liberal studies at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

"If I could have done cartwheels across the stage, I would have," she said.

Cunningham was joined by her family Saturday for a graduation ceremony that she hopes will serve as inspiration for others who wish to obtain a college degree, regardless of their age.

"I say follow your dreams, don't let anyone tell you it can't be done, keep pushing and keep God in the plan," she said.

"My friends have called and told me that it has motivated them," Cunningham said. "And some of the young ones in my family, too. They said if I can do it, they can do it."

Cunningham credited a number of individuals with keeping her on track, including her daughter Tarra Barnes, son Donald Cunningham, son-in-law retired Army Col. Rob Banes, Samford Office of Professional Studies director Bryan Gill and associate director Nicole B. Otero.

"I felt like I wanted to quit at times, but they were behind me 100%," she continued. "They kept pushing me."

Cunningham's incredible achievement motivated Tarra to pursue her PhD at North Caroline AT&T; Tarra's son Jordan is now in a master's degree program at the University of Miami.

"We're so elated," Barnes said. "She set a goal, and it took her a little journey to get there, but she finished it. She really has motivated our family."

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