After Having To Drop Out In The 1930s, A 101-Year-Old West Virginia Man Finally Receives His High School Diploma

It had been an 80-year dream come true. Merrill Pittman Cooper, 101, received his high school graduation last weekend.

From 1934 until 1938, Cooper attended Storer College, a former secondary school in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. However, his schooling was cut short in his final year when he and his mother were forced to relocate to Philadelphia for “financial reasons.”

Cooper’s high school curriculum featured college preparatory Latin, biology, history, English, and mathematics, according to a press release from Jefferson County Schools (JCS). He wanted to go to college, but life had other ideas.

Cooper went on to have a successful career in transportation, eventually rising to the position of union vice president, but he has always regretted not finishing high school.

In 2018, his families approached JCS about making amends. To recognize Cooper’s achievements at Storer and beyond, they collaborated with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the Storer College National Alumni Association, and the West Virginia Department of Education.

Cooper and his extended family were honored with an honorary diploma at a special graduation ceremony on March 19.

“Jefferson County Schools is committed to helping every student, young or old, fulfill their dreams,” JCS superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson-Learn said in a statement. “For Mr. Cooper, that meant receiving a high school diploma. We are honored to help make that dream a reality.”

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