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A valedictorian who married instead of using a scholarship that was good at any college in the state surprised Gustavus Adolphus College officials recently when she showed them the 1953 certificate.

They didn't know anything about it but decided to honor it.Lois Kirschstein married her high school sweetheart, Elmer Kirschstein, after graduating as valedictorian at St. Peter High School.

"It drove the high school teachers and the principal nuts," Kirschstein said. "I wasn't supposed to do that. But I never regretted I did."

Her husband died last summer, and the 54-year-old Kirschstein began searching for something to do with her life. The search crystallized when she found the faded scholarship certificate. There was no expiration date, so she decided to try and put it to use at Gustavus.

"At first (college officials) told me it was no good, even if there was no expiration date, it was only good in the year I applied for it," said Kirschstein, a grandmother of 10 who lives in the south-central Minnesota town of Morgan. "I told them that I never applied, it was a gift. So I sent a copy of it to the college."

"We had never seen one of these," said Owen Sammelson, vice president for administration. "But we talked it over, and since there was no date we decided to accept it. We are delighted that she's doing this."

Mark Anderson, director of admissions, said the college has waived its requirement for standardized college entrance exams.

"She is a top-notch student, and I am sure she will enrich any classroom," Anderson said. "I saw her transcript, and there wasn't a B on there. It was straight A's."

Kirschstein plans to major in history and religion at Gustavus.

This year tuition at Gustavus is about $10,300. Kirschstein's scholarship will cover $5,150. In 1953, the scholarship's cash value would have been only $225, half of the college's $450 annual tuition.

After raising four children, Kirschstein isn't worried about communicating with the other freshmen, but she is nervous.