75-year-old Huntsville woman achieves a lifelong goal, graduating from college

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- A moment eight years in the making. In just a few days, a 75-year-old Huntsville woman will proudly walk across the stage and receive her diploma. Her journey was not an easy one, overcoming countless obstacles.

"I'm so excited," said Annie Watts. And she has every reason to be. "I'm graduating from college this Friday!" she exclaimed.

She will have another diploma to proudly hang on her wall next to her GED. Getting to that moment has been difficult. "I had a very shaky beginning."

Abandoned as a baby, Watts didn't get past a seventh-grade education. "I couldn't go to school because I had nobody to send me to school."

After marrying young, things began to look up. But a certain desire was still there. "I always had a desire for education. I wanted to be a schoolteacher," said Watts.

That flame was almost snuffed out. "I was dumb and stupid, I heard that most of my life."

Then the last straw, Watts found out she had cancer. Her illness inspired her to live her life and get her GED. "I didn't miss one day."

Her persistence motivated her own family. "I had two granddaughters that dropped out of school and when they heard grandma going back to get her GED, 'Uh-uh, grandma, you ain't gonna beat us, we're going back to school.'"

She didn't stop there, going on to Drake State Community and Technical College. "I walked on that campus and I said, 'God, now you got me into this now you gotta get me out.'"

She will receive her Associate's Degree in applied science and business administration, graduating summa cum laude. "It's something I've been wanting for her almost as bad as she's been wanting for herself," said Lisa Vick, a friend, and mentor in the Student Services TRiO Program.

The ones she loves are celebrating her with a spa day and customizing the cap that will go with her gown. "I'm glad, I'm so proud of her. It is bittersweet," said Vick.

Her journey a source of inspiration, encourage others. "I really can't explain how I really feel except, joyful, thankful," she beamed.

She has a long list of accomplishments to celebrate:

  • Vice President of Phi Beta Lamba Business Fraternity Inc. (2016 - 2017)
  • Secretary of the International Association of Administrative Professionals
  • Second Place winner in Human Resource Management at the Phi Beta Lambda State Leadership Conference (April 2017)
  • Vice President of the Student Government Association
  • Member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
  • Member of the National Technical Honor Society
  • Member of the Student Support Services TRiO Program (2013 - 2018)
  • Made the Academic President's list fall 2014, fall 2015, spring 2017 and spring 2018
  • Volunteered at the Floyd E. "Tut" Veteran's Home, First Responders and Community Food Banks