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‘Follow your dreams’: Great-Grandmother Graduates College at 78



  • Vivian Cunningham is a 78-year-old graduate from Samford University.
  • She finished a degree in liberal studies.
  • Her love for learning is now pushing her to pursue a master’s degree after just being graduated.

Vivian Cunningham, 78, is not only a mom, a grandmom, and a great grandmom, but also a degree holder from Samford University.

Photo Credit: Samford University/YouTube

A fresh college graduate, Vivian earned a degree in liberal studies, which she considers the pinnacle of her success. She spent six long years working towards this life-long dream, juggling work and family roles all at the same time.

Vivian, who worked for 29 years as a custodian and later on as head of the mailroom for the Alabama Power Company, also holds an associate degree in paralegal studies from Virginia College.

But with her innate love for learning and knowledge, Vivian continued to explore educational opportunities, and no age and time can hinder her.

“I say follow your dreams, don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done, keep pushing and keep God in the plan,” Vivian joyfully said. “If I could have done cartwheels across the stage, I would have.”

Photo Credit: Samford University/YouTube

When she retired from work, she didn’t want her time to remain idle, despite being busy especially with her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“AARP tells us to take some classes and do something instead of just sitting down and being retired, so I kept going,” she Vivian said. “I enjoyed being in the classroom.”

Vivian’s Samford journey began by taking night classes, and eventually shifted to virtual classes because of the pandemic. Albeit the challenges posed by modern technologies, Vivian pressed on, adapted quickly, with the help of her daughter, Tarra Barnes.

“It was kind of hectic for me because I didn’t know too much about technology, so I had to have my daughter help me with that to learn to do it virtually,” she said.

Vivian admitted though, that her success is a product of her solid support from family and the academe, constantly encouraging her until the finish line.


I felt like I wanted to quit at times, but they were behind me 100%,” Vivian shared. “They kept pushing me.”

Tarra attested to her mom’s grit and dedication in finishing her degree, despite the odds. She said that while education is “such a big deal in their family,” Vivian just set the bar up a higher notch for her family and relatives to pursue greater goals.

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

Vivian, however, is unstoppable. She is now eyeing to pursue higher studies, such as a master’s degree.