A Prescott, Arizona woman was awarded her Associate's degree diploma on February 8 -- 59 years after completing her last college course.
Cecelia “Dolly” Mischel Boarman was 102 when she received the diploma from Brescia University. She died April 7, less than two months later.
"I think she was a little taken aback by it," Dolly's daughter Jovita Fine told ABC News. "What's ironic is that April 6, the story was on the front page of the paper. She was already in the hospital and that was her last day of living. I read the article and showed her the picture. At that point, she was starting to fade. We wanted to make sure she knew that she made front page news."
Fine, 71, also of Prescott, Arizona, said her mother began studying at Brescia University, in her hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1957.
She completed her final courses 47 years ago in 1969, but never finished her bachelor's degree, she said.
"At the time she was teacher," Fine said. "She could be in the parochial schools without a degree, as long as she was taking classes towards the degree. She had gotten all her credits, but something happened in her life where she didn't finish all her credits."
"She had a pretty remarkable life," she added. "She married my father when she was 30 [years old] and he was 36. He was already in the army and went to WWII. He was killed in Germany when I was only eight months old. She basically was a single mother back in the 40's 50's and 60's raising me and that's part of the reason why she became a teacher. That, and she loved it."
Dolly taught fourth and fifth grade in the Catholic school system for 11 years before retiring and becoming a substitute teacher.
Dolly even attended classes alongside her daughter, who graduated from Brescia in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology.
Tracy Naylor, vice president for Institutional Advancement at Brescia, learned Dolly's story after speaking with Fine about scheduling an alumni visit.
"When we hung up, I pulled up her transcript--72 credits," Naylor said of Dolly's completed courses. "She'd even done student-teaching. But she never completed the degree; she never needed to."
Naylor took Dolly's transcript to the college's Academic Dean, Sister Cheryl Clemons, who awarded the centenarian with an Associate of Arts Honoris Causa -- an honorary Associate's degree -- since the school does not offer an associate's degree in education studies.
“I am so thrilled to finally get a diploma after all these years,” Dolly's statement revealed in a press release from Brescia on April 1. “Thank you to Tracy. And thank you to Brescia.”
Fine said her mother was "pleased" to receive her degree the moment it was presented to her.
"Her face just beamed and Tracy took a picture of her holding the diploma," Fine recalled. "Mom was 102, but her mind was sharp. It was very clear she knew what she was getting. I thought this was the most exciting thing to happen to my mom in her old age."
Dolly suffered from congenital heart failure, but died of pneumonia last Thursday in hospice. She had one child, Fine, three grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
"She was so beloved by everybody in the whole family," Fine said. "She loved to play cards. She played bridge and canasta and that was one of the ways she spent time socializing with people. She was musical. She played piano and the drums when she was young in an all-girls orchestra. She was just a strong, independent, well-loved lady.
"We are all saddened by losing her," Fine added. "We had a good, long time and really enjoyed being with her."