PARIS, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — A Paris woman is proving it’s never too late to finish what you’ve started. At 102 years old, Gladys Wright recently became Dist. 95’s oldest high school graduate.
Wright was originally slated to graduate Coalmont High School in 1936; however, she was forced to drop out of school due to illness. Not graduating high school was a lifelong regret for Wright.
“I always thought I’d go back, but it was the Depression and I had gotten a job,” she told her family. “It just never happened.”
Wright heard about the Paris District 95 Adult Education Program, and the family reached out to Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Larson to see if it was an option for her. Dr. Larson contacted the staff of Shakamak High School in Jasonville, Indiana, who located Wright’s school records from more than 80 years ago.
“After tracking down her school records from her consolidated school district, we were able to admit Gladys to our adult education program and have her complete her missing credits,” Larson said. “Gladys finished her coursework this past week.”
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Born Aug. 23, 1918 during the Spanish Flu, Wright grew up in a three-room farmhouse in Clay County, Indiana. She was the fifth of 11 children. Her father was a former Terre Haute street car conductor.
She married Glen Wright in May of 1946 after he returned from World War II, and they had one daughter, Sandy.
The Wrights lived their entire marriage in the same house in Jasonville, Indiana. In 2011, Gladys left the house she had kept for 65 years, and moved to Paris, Illinois, to be close to her daughter and grandchildren.
To earn her diploma, Wright completed classes in English and mathematics. While she enjoyed the math, she admitted that she found both classes challenging after being out of school for 85 years. She also joked that she was thankful that she wasn’t required to take a PE class.
Next month, Wright not only turns 103, but she will also participate in a graduation ceremony.
“I asked Gladys what she wanted for her graduation, and she told me two things,” Larson said. “First, she wants a graduation cap because she wants to turn the tassel. Secondly, she wanted me to communicate to everyone that she did not receive an honorary diploma because of her age. She earned an actual diploma because of her resilience.”
Those who want congratulate Wright on her accomplishment are encouraged to send graduation cards to her care of District 95, 300 S. Eads Ave., Paris, IL 61944.