HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - This Friday, Pat Cassity, will walk across the stage in Tuscaloosa as a graduate of the University of Alabama.
But unlike her fellow graduates, she just turned 87-years-old and has been intent on receiving her diploma since she first enrolled in the summer of 1947.
Better late than never is a fitting phrase for this season of Pat Cassity's life. She started school at the University of Alabama in 1947, she was 17-years-old and studying music performance, which grew to be very demanding. "The pressure of that and the pressure of other things that were happening in my life at the time. Some rebellion had built up, so I took off."
She moved to Alaska and quickly realized it was a mistake. She moved back to Alabama where she met her husband, Beau. And as it does-- life happened, and the possibility of finishing her degree took the back seat. "I wanted to finish, but with the children and an upward mobility job, and his traveling, it just seemed not to be workable."
Pat's husband passed away last June. Since then, she's trying to focus on new accomplishments. "I don't want the time that I am widowed to be wasted, or to be morbid, or sad."
One day, while flipping through a university alumni magazine, something spoke to Pat. "The thing that I noticed most was the little statement underneath the Back To Bama that says 'You still belong here.'"
She applied, and was accepted in the Back to Bama program, a distance learning program in the College of Continuing Studies, Now, she'll receive a diploma 70 years in the making.
She's no stranger to being a Bama fan, her parents, children, and grandchildren all attended the university. Her grandson is still there. "He's taking a final exam during my graduation, so he won't get to attend."
"It really came to reality when I got my cap and gown. When I got that, I really knew it was reality."
This closure comes to Pat better late than never and she hopes her story encourages others to finish what they've started.
"And that's what this degree is. It's closure for me at a time when I made a poor decision. It sort of helps ease that time in my life and that gives me some help with the grief of losing him.I did something that he wanted me to do."
"Roll Tide!" She now feels like she's part of a family legacy.