When she graduated from a segregated high school in Virginia, Black students, including Clark, had very few options for pursuing higher education.
When she moved to Ohio in 1979, she enrolled at the University of Akron.
Dora Clark finally graduated from college last weekend after spending years in and out of school. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree as well.
Clark said, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste, so I figured let me just keep it active as I get older.”
After retiring as a receptionist and stenographer, Clark thought she would become a nurse. Before dropping out, she had taken a few courses in general education and science.
When she enrolled at the age of 67, she didn’t have a goal of graduating, just a desire to learn more.
She participated in Akron’s Adult Focus program, taking a class here, a lesson there – sometimes two or three at a time, sometimes none at all.
Her classes could either be audited or taken for credit. She figured she should be credited for it if she would do all the work.
She gained her first two associate degrees with distinction in arts and science. It took her until last week to hear she had enough credits to graduate.
She found it hard to believe until she walked across the stage in her black cap and gown and golden yellow sash in front of a large audience. A group of young kids gathered to take her picture afterward.
Clark said, “I didn’t even know them. I felt honored when they wanted to do that.”
She went directly to the teacher if she needed help with an assignment or had a question.
Nevertheless, Clark learned how to use the internet with the help of her local library, taking part in online classes and group projects, and writing her chatbox text ahead of time so she would have something to share with the group.
Clark said, “It was just something you had to do. Do your best, or don’t do it at all.”