Great-Grandmother Graduates From TMCC

By: Jenny Rabin
By: Jenny Rabin

Friday was graduation day for nearly 500 students at Truckee Meadows Community College. Among those students was a great-grandmother who waited more than 25 years for this day.

Meet the nearly 500 members of the Truckee Meadows Community College class of 2003. If you looked closely at the students wearing the blue caps, you may have see an unlikely face.

One of this year's graduates is none other than 79-year-old Mary Anna Clowers from Reno.

"Oh, Oh I can't believe how I'm feeling. I'm nervous and I'm happy and I'm so grateful for having such wonderful kids and the fact that I made it - hey," says Clowers.

Mary Anna dropped out of high school her junior year, but always planned on finishing her degree.

Says her daughter, Linda Gillenwater: "When I got married my husband is an educator and she said she had never graduated from high school and she'd like to get her GED. And he brought her a GED book and he went back over on a weekend and said can I help you with anything and she'd already gone and taken her test and was already to go to college."

So off she went.

Mary Anna thinks she first enrolled at TMCC back in 1977. She took a bunch of classes but then, her children had children, and their children had children and she just never got around to finishing.

"Grandchildren, I have four, five, six - six of em? and then I have one, two, three, four, five - five great gran's. How can you remember all this at this age?," she said.

"She's crazy. Why is she crazy? I didn't think she'd ever go back to school after she dropped out but she did it and I'm proud of her," said great-granson Jacob Naegle.

With her associate of general studies degree in hand, Mary Anna now plans on taking some more acting classes. Acting is her passion - and she says she eventually wants to start a children's theater program.

"She's an amazing lady - if it wasn't for her I wouldn't have a car now, I wouldn't have my mom. She holds the family together - she's awesome, I'm so proud of her," said grandson Paul Gillenwater.

Mary Anna says having your entire family say they are proud of you is an amazing feeling.

Here's her advice for how you, too, can achieve that at age 79 . . .

"Never give it up. Keep active - keep doing things."

Mary Anna is tied for the honor of being the oldest graduate in TMCC history. Another 79-year-old graduated from the school back in 1979.


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