Sylvia Loosle has stressed education all her life, but it wasn't until age 93 that she donned a cap and gown and picked up an honorary high school diploma.
Greeted Thursday with a standing ovation from friends, family and fellow - but much younger - 1994 Box Elder High School graduates, Loosle joined her great-granddaughter, Brandy Loosle, on the stage as both received their diplomas."This has been wonderful," the Logan resident and great-great-grandmother said. "It's something I wanted and have cherished all my life. To get it is quite a fulfillment for me."
Hailing from Clarkston, Cache County, Sylvia Griffiths completed her sophomore and junior years at Box Elder High School while living with a brother who taught at the school. But after a war-time marriage in 1918 to Reuben Loosle, she moved and was not able to attend her senior year.
Years spent raising 11 children made it difficult to finish what she deeply wanted to do, but she never lost sight of that goal. And even though she herself had not completed high school, she always encouraged her children to pursue their educations. Indeed, the Loosle home fostered an atmosphere of learning, said her oldest daughter, Marguerite Fryer, visiting from Stockton, Calif.
"She really has stressed education," Fryer said, adding, "I think anyone who puts nine kids through college has had an education." Three of Loosle's children went on to obtain master's degrees, and two hold doctorates.
When Loosle's youngest children were in junior high school, roughly 40 years ago, she approached Logan High School about taking classes to complete her last year of schooling. The administration then didn't think that was something she could do, she said.
She instead kept educating herself by reading the editorial pages and memorizing poems, activities she maintains today. It wasn't until a few months ago, when Fryer and her husband wrote to Box Elder principal Jay Stuart, that Loosle discovered she could get her diploma.
"Family interest started it, and they came to me saying, `Hey, principal, this has been a desire all her life,' " Stuart said. "We pulled out her grades (from 1918), and we felt like she'd earned it." Stuart also thought marking Loosle's graduation would be an appropriate way for the school to enter its centennial year.
So 76 years later, Loosle received the diploma family members think she's deserved all along. "If she had taken her equivalency test she would have blown them away," Fryer said.
Even though she recognizes not many people her age receive such an honor, Loosle wouldn't mind doing without some of the attention. "I told the principal if he would just slip it (the diploma) to me behind his back, that would be great," she said with a laugh.
Brandy, 18, said while it's been a little strange to share the limelight of her graduation with her great-grandmother, she's enjoyed the experience. "I'm really proud of her, it's something she's always wanted to do," she said.
The other high school seniors thought it was great, too. Many gathered around Loosle afterward to offer their own congratulations. "You all look so young and beautiful," Loosle offered in return. "I can't stand it."
In addition to reading and reciting poetry, Loosle maintains the garden of the home where she lives by herself. She has written a number of histories, published in other people's books and also writes weekly letters to her children. "Sometimes I get the carbons backward so they have to read them with a mirror," she said, smiling.
With all these activities, getting her diploma is like the icing on the cake. "It's not that you can't learn all the way along, it's just that high school is so important," she said.