Born in 1911, she loved to learn as a Hodgeman County teenager, then taught in
a one-room school after graduating from high school before becoming a full-time
wife and mother on a farm near Jetmore.
Today she is the matriarch of a family that includes three sons (a fourth died in
1995), 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
When Vernon, her husband of 39 years, passed away in 1972. , she decided to
start taking community college classes. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Now Nola Ochs has made history, and even though she has been besieged with
offers for television appearances and media interviews, the gracious, beautiful,
witty trailblazer took time away prior to the graduation festivities for an exclusive
interview with MyBestYears.com.
MBY: At an age when many Seasoned Seniors™ begin thinking about retirement, you
decided to go back to college. What motivated you?
NOLA: The yearning for study was always there. I loved to learn. I really enjoyed studying
history. Taking college classes was just something I wanted to do. It gave me such a
feeling of satisfaction. I never set out to do anything unusual or newsworthy. I just like to
study and learn, and I’ve always been that way.
MBY: You took classes from time to time, but when did you actually begin to think, “I
should go ahead and get my degree”?
NOLA: I believe it was around 1991. I had graduated from Dodge City Community College
in 1988, and that satisfied me for a little while. Then I began thinking of doing more. At that
point we had a four-year college there in Dodge City, so I decided to go over there, take
my classes, and graduate.
MBY: You enrolled in 1991?
NOLA: Yes, in the fall, and I went that year,
but then that college decided to fold. That
put an end to that. It was a couple of years
later that I happened to pick up a flyer from
Fort Hays State College and found an eMail
address. I eMailed them and asked if they
would accept my transcript from Dodge City
Community College so I could graduate from there. They did, and that’s what happened.
MBY: It sounds simple when you say it, but it required uprooting from your home near
Jetmore and moving 100 miles northwest to a Hays campus apartment in order to
complete the final 30 hours.
NOLA: Well, it required some adjustments, sure, but my family and friends have been so
supportive. And I came up here with that purpose—to finish my degree.
MBY: Did you ever doubt yourself and what you were
trying to accomplish?
NOLA: Never! Other people probably did, but I never
doubted it. I enjoy what I’m doing, and I came up here to
Hays to finish what I started. I knew it would take a lot of
work, but I was willing to do it.
MBY: How have the other students accepted you? Have
they taken you under their wing, so to speak, or is it the
other way—them wanting you to take them under your
NOLA: You’d be surprised how well I have been accepted. That is one of the biggest
reasons that I enjoy myself so much. I am just another student.
MBY: Just another student?
NOLA: Just like everyone else.
MBY: That is probably one of the most exceptional things about you. Everyone, including
the University Relations Director, Curt Byers, has mentioned that you are determined to
do it yourself—that you have never complained about the work nor wanted any special
considerations. You have impressed everyone, it seems, by wanting to be a “regular”
student, rather than simply known because of your age.
NOLA: That’s nice of them to say, but I mainly just wanted to do this because I enjoy it so
much. The people here at the university have been very nice to me.
MBY: You specialized in general studies with a specialization in history. What made you
decide to go that direction?
NOLA: I like history. I always have.
MBY: With final examinations and all the hoopla over the Guinness World Records, have
you had a chance to reflect what this accomplishment means to you and so many other
NOLA: I don’t think so. It’s good if it inspires others to set new
goals and if it brings attention to this college and this part of the
state. There’s so many good people who live here. But as for
me, I still wear the same size hat! Truthfully, I just don't dwell
on my age. That might limit what I can do. As long as I have
my mind and health, age is just a number.
MBY: What do you plan to do next?
NOLA: I often tell people that I plan to seek employment as a
storyteller on a cruise ship!
MBY: It would be one of the smartest marketing decisions in the
world for one of the major cruise ship companies to hire you,
that’s for sure! You would be a great attraction!
NOLA: (laughs) I would enjoy it, believe me. I like to tell my stories, sure do.
MBY: What part has your faith played in helping you to meet so many challenges you
have seen in your life?
NOLA: I give thanks every day for each new day that the Lord allows me to live and enjoy
life to the fullest.
MBY: Anyone who sees the news reports from around the world can see that you are
obviously healthy and active. What is your secret?
NOLA: No secret, really. Everything in moderation, I
MBY: Do you do any special exercises?
NOLA: Not on a regular schedule. I like to walk, and
I’ve gotten plenty of opportunities to do that here on
the campus. After all the years on the farm, I’ve
always believed in pitching in and doing whatever
needed to be done. That has kept me healthy.
There were always so many activities on the farm,
and I always liked to participate in those things.
MBY: What hobbies do you enjoy?
NOLA: I love genealogical research. That’s the reason I bought my first computer years
ago to put my genealogy records on the computer. I’ve always enjoyed tracing family
MBY: What advice do you have for other Seasoned Seniors™ who are considering
something as drastic as going back to college or another challenging dream?
NOLA: Most everyone has an inner desire—something they would like to do. Maybe it
seems impossible, but it isn’t. Today, there are so many options. People will help you do
almost anything if you want to do it badly enough. The desire has to be intense, but I
would encourage people to search their desires, to pick out one, and then get out and do
One of Nola’s greatest thrills is the
fact that Alexandra Ochs, her 21-year-
old granddaughter, wore the cap and
gown alongside her for the Class of
2007 graduation at Fort Hays State
After the ceremonies, the world’s
oldest college graduate celebrated
by leaving her one-bedroom campus
apartment, with books, term papers
and notes within easy reach of her
computer, and heading back to Jetmore to help with the wheat harvest, just as
she has done every year for as long as she can remember.
After that—who knows? When you are 95 years old and just broke a Guinness
World Record, the sky is obviously the limit!
Congratulations, Nola Ochs!
That applause you hear from around the globe is the MyBestYears.com network
of Seasoned Seniors™ giving you a standing ovation for being such a shining,
courageous, exciting trailblazer for all of us to follow!
…at 95, not just another college graduate!
Graduation days are always bittersweet times—the moments of reflection, the
thrill of achievement and the uncertainty of what lies ahead.
Graduation on May 12 at Fort Hays State
University (located in west-central
Kansas) was even more unusual for 95
year old Nola Ochs. Not only did she
receive her degree in General Studies,
but she entered the Guinness World
Records as the oldest person to be
awarded an earned college degree (a
record previously belonging to Mozelle
Richardson, then 90, who received a
journalism degree from the University
As she graduated, the 5-foot-2 great-grandmother, her white hair pulled back
into a bun, hardly looked like the typical college graduate, nor is she.
|Photos by the
Associate Press, Hays
Daily News (Fred Hunt)
and USA Today;
Used by Permission
|Graduating together...Nola and Alexandra
|Cousin Elma Briggs, clad in "We are
Family...Nola's # 1 Fan" shirt, shares
graduation congratulations with Nola
|Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius,
graduates Alexandra and Nola,
with FHSU President Edward Hammond
Oldest graduate Nola Ochs with global media
surprised how well
I have been
accepted. That is
one of the biggest
reasons that I
enjoy myself so
much. I am just
|"I give thanks
every day for each
new day that the
Lord allows me to
live and enjoy life
to the fullest."
Nola is now 103!