WWII Vet, 99, Attends Graduation 70 Years after Finishing Degree
Seventy years after Elizabeth Barker Johnson graduated from what is now known as the Winston-Salem State University, (WSSU) she was given the honor to walk across the stage and receive her diploma at the school's 2019 commencement ceremony.
On Friday, history was made at WSSU when the school awarded a 99-year-old World War II Veteran her diploma.
Johnson was a Private First Class in the U.S. Army during WWII as a member of the 6888th Regiment, the only all-female, all-African American regiment that was stationed overseas during the war.— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 10, 2019
She was stationed in Kentucky, England and France during her time in the Army.
Everything seemed to stand still at the moment when Johnson was called unto the stage to receive the honorary award. The emotions was unbelievable as people in the audience rose up to give the old lady a standing ovation amidst cheers from various well-wishers.
Elizabeth according to "WXII12" was awarded the honorary degree after circumstances led to her receiving her diploma through a mail seven decades ago.
After the war, she became the first female to enroll on the GI Bill. She earned a degree in education in 1949.— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 10, 2019
However, because she was working as a teacher, she did not get to walk across the stage at her graduation and instead received her degree in the mail.
In 1949, Elizabeth graduated from the college with a degree in education but unfortunately couldn't make it to her graduation ceremony because she had begun working as a teacher.
Johnson who also served in the Army during World War II was a member of the 6888th Regiment, the only all-female, all-African American regiment that was stationed abroad during the war. As a young and vibrant lady then, she was stationed in Kentucky, France, and England where she drove trucks and worked at military Post offices during the war.
Now, at this age with kids and grandkids, Johnson couldn't believe this would happen for her.
Johnson discussed her passion for teaching with @WXII:— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 10, 2019
“To begin with, I felt like dropping out but then there were so many children who were not getting the help they needed so I said, ‘I feel like I’m capable of doing it,’ so that’s why I stayed with it.”
Johnson's family who were present at the event were elated for her as they believed that this is a well-deserved honor. The veteran's daughter, Scott disclosed to "WXII12" that,
“Just happy to be here. Just thrilled. Really just thrilled. I really don’t know how to explain it that she is going to get to do this. I guess I never honestly would have dreamed that this would happen."
Scott also revealed that without sentiments, her mother is one of the best people she knows and that one of the core values Johnson instilled in her over the years was,
“Just to treat everybody the same. She is just such a, I think a wonderful individual. I am not saying that because she is my mother I just think she is a wonderful individual."
On her 99th birthday last week, she was surprised with the news that she had been invited to walk at Friday’s commencement.— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 10, 2019
She was recognized on stage with an honorary degree in special education. Johnson taught in Virginia and North Carolina public schools for over 30 years.
But Scott wasn't the only one who couldn't believe that this amazing thing was happening, Elizabeth also revealed that,
"I was excited. I can’t explain how excited I really was,” Johnson told the news station. “I’m just so excited about everything that’s happening. I can’t really believe it’s happening.”
Elizabeth who taught in schools for over three decades explained that after leaving college, her decision to coach students was based on the fact that she wanted to make a change. The 99-year-old also confessed that she thought teaching the younger generation will help her instill knowledge and life lessons into them while they were still young.
WATCH: 99-year-old WWII veteran Elizabeth Barker Johnson, who graduated Winston-Salem State University 70 years ago, walks across the stage to accept her degree in person during a commencement ceremony.— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 10, 2019
Story: https://t.co/nAIhcoAPzR pic.twitter.com/MMBItTGZEY
However, the elderly lady looked dapper in a red graduation cap,, and gown and the audience couldn't have been happier to witness and be a part of her story.