Home Carrollton West Georgia Technical College Graduate Fulfills Lifelong Goal and Earns Her Degree...

West Georgia Technical College Graduate Fulfills Lifelong Goal and Earns Her Degree at 75

Catherine Higgins, age 75, celebrates her graduation from West Georgia Technical College on December 14, 2023.

At 75 years old, honor graduate Catherine Higgins achieved a milestone that stands as a testament to the adage, “It’s never too late”, after recently graduating from West Georgia Technical College (WGTC).

Upon graduating high school in 1966, Higgins worked in law firms in both Wisconsin and Arizona. Inspired by the work ethic and legal abilities of those in the firms she worked for, Higgins continued with a 28-year career with the Department of Justice where she learned the ins and outs of the legal system.

In 2014, Higgins’ passion and knowledge of law propelled her to begin her college career, choosing WGTC for an Associate Degree in General Studies with a concentration in criminal justice.

“Many of my family members have degrees, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could too,” said Higgins. “When our children were preparing to get their degrees, I started night classes after work. I wanted to set an example for them.”

Higgins’ unhindered determination set her apart in her classes. Louis Shepard, department chair and instructor of WGTC’s criminal justice program, said Higgins excelled in her criminal justice courses, even being the sole student to earn an A in one course. Other classes, such as college algebra and statistics, proved to be more of a challenge when adapting to fully online classes. Her math professor, Lisa Gooden, said Higgins worked harder than many of her classmates.

“Although she [Higgins] was an online student, I could tell that she was very special,” said Gooden. “She used her resources and never hesitated to contact me for help, always truly wanting to learn. She is diligent and very persistent; I find so much inspiration from her.”

Higgins was not alone in her college journey. Her family helped her along the way, together they learned how to use software or programs that were used in her courses. She also received encouragement and support from her fellow classmates.

“I was quite nervous to start, but the students were completely accepting of me,” she said. “I was just another student. We each had a different story, but we all had the same dream: an education and a college degree.”

To highlight her extraordinary success, Higgins was asked to represent her graduating class and speak during the graduation ceremony in LaGrange. In her speech, she encouraged her fellow graduates to be kind, be happy, be adventurous and to be grateful.

Catherine Higgins’ family traveled to LaGrange, GA from all over the U.S. to attend her graduation ceremony.

Her family flew in from across the U.S. to help celebrate, filling the audience with large cutouts of her face as Higgins lead the turning of the tassels – a symbolic moment representing the end of one era and the beginning of another.

“We welcome students every semester from ages 14 to 80,” said WGTC President Dr. Julie Post. “It is an honor that Mrs. Higgins chose West Georgia Tech to be a partner in her journey. We could not be prouder of her incredible accomplishment as she is true testament to perseverance and success.”

As for what’s next, Higgins says she is looking forward to applying to college again to obtain her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, hinting at the idea of attending school at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame.

“When I was taking classes, people would always ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’d say, ‘a college graduate!’” said Higgins. “I have had a wonderful, full life and wouldn’t change a day of it. Maybe because I was always working toward a goal to fulfill my dream. The one thing you have is your dreams –and none of those dreams are beyond your reach, no matter how old you are.”

West Georgia Technical College, with campuses in Carroll, Coweta, Douglas, Haralson, and Troup counties and class sites in Heard and Meriwether counties, offers more than 120 associate degree, diploma, and technical certificate programs of study. A unit of the Technical College System of Georgia, West Georgia Tech is one of the largest of the state’s 22 technical colleges. For more information, please visit www.westgatech.edu.