HOUSTON (CNN) — Beatrice Lillie retired a few years ago. In her spare time, she enjoys a friendly game of cards (Spades) with friends- no money involved. The rest of her time is spent volunteering such as singing in the church choir and now this: walking the graduation stage this month after achieving her Associate’s Degree in Business Management at 80 years old. She attended Houston Community College and reaching her goal surprised everyone, even herself.
Lillie said, “I would not have believed it I don’t think. Although we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, I don’t know.” She added a laugh.
It was a friend, Merline Williams, who attended HCC who encouraged Lillie to pursue her degree.
Williams said, “I told her I was going to be an example to my grands and great-grands because they told me, ‘Big Momma you don’t know how it is.’”
Lillie enrolled her grandchildren at her graduation (all in college themselves), and she inspired some other students in her classes.
Lillie explained, “The young ladies were saying ‘oh my God- I know I can do it if you can do it!’”
Another friend, Pastor Maceo Dillard Jr. of Restoration Missionary Baptist Church, who works with seniors like Lillie, told her, “Never give up.”
He added, “Go for it- you can’t win if you never try.”
Lillie did try with her family cheering her on, and ended up successful. The one person she wishes could have seen her getting her diploma:
Lillie said, “My mother- I think she really would have been proud.”