Originally created 05/24/04

90-year-old woman earns GED



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. ‹ A 90-year-old woman who started her education in a one-room schoolhouse at a time when computers and overhead projectors didn't exist will receive her diploma next week.

Uceba Babson was born in Boynton Beach in 1913, before World War I had occurred, Charles Lindbergh had flown across the Atlantic Ocean, and women had received the right to vote.

She left school when she was in the 11th grade to marry a young farmer she met at Pahokee Baptist Church. She raised eight children, a family that expanded to include 81 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Professionally, she worked a bookkeeper, became president of the local chapter of the Business and Professional Women's Club, and later earned a real estate license.

But she was bothered by her lack of a high school degree, and when a family member gave her a book about a man who started school in his 90s, she decided to follow his lead.

"I thought, 'If he can do it, why can't I?'" Babson said. "I don't think people give the elderly enough credit for the knowledge that they have."

For the past three years, she got up early to put hot-water bottles on her arthritic knees, and drove from her Singer Island condominium to the Adult Education Center in West Palm Beach, where she studied five subjects until noon. In three years, she never missed a day.

"The young students were awed by her," said teacher Dianne Dioguardi. "She was always telling them there was so much to learn."

On Tuesday, Babson will walk across a stage in cap and gown to receive her GED.

"It's keeping a promise that I made to myself 73 years ago," she said.