Grandma of 21 Gets Her Diploma at GPC

05/14/2013
Contact: Rebecca Rakoczy
Phone: 678-891-2691
Fax: 678-891-2966
Author: Rebecca Rakoczy

For Immediate Release

Susanne Autry has 21 grandchildren. She has three daughters with advanced college degrees, and she loved cheering and supporting them through their bachelor’s and master’s programs.

Now it’s her turn.
This grandma finally received her own college degree.

After more than 50 years of delaying her own college education, Susanne Autry, a 76-year-old Monroe grandmother, walked in cap and gown during Georgia Perimeter College’s commencement ceremonies at the Atlanta Civic Center May 3.

It didn’t bother Autry that she was decades older than the students--and the professors--in her classes. “I’m not a shy person, and I’ve enjoyed being in study groups. I fit right in,” she says. She jokes that she was the “only student that takes notes in Gregg Shorthand.”

Autry always wanted to go to college, and starting taking classes at the University of Georgia more than a half-century ago. “It wasn’t for lack of ambition that I didn’t finish,” she says. Finances were always tight; her father, a Monroe grocer, had a heart attack when she was 11, and was unable to work. Her mother, a registered nurse, worked in a local hospital and in a doctor’s office to support the family.
So when her long-time beau asked her to marry him, Autry dropped her degree dream, settled down and started a family. “I knew he wouldn’t have waited for me to finish college,” Autry says simply.

The couple was married for over 40 years; raising their daughters in Monroe. She worked part time as a church secretary and as a bookkeeper; he worked for Norfolk Southern Railroad in Atlanta.

When her husband died in 2004, Autry began to reconsider her college plans and looked to Georgia Perimeter College.
“I wanted to set a good example for my grandchildren,” she says. She wondered if her college transcripts from her term at UGA were still relevant.

They were.

“They really had to dig to find my transcripts, but my English, political science and public speaking credits were still good,” she says. She enrolled as a Prime Time student at GPC Newton in spring of 2008, taking one or two classes a semester. She had to take Learning Support math—but successfully completed it. “I was pretty good in math, and all my high school algebra came back to me,” she says.
Chemistry was another matter. “It was hard,” she says. She stayed up until 4 in the morning doing extra credit work to boost her grade. It was worth it—she received an A in the class.

She also took Spanish. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to take, but I learned that you can’t just learn it from a textbook, you have to speak it every day.”

Autry excelled in geography, algebra and environmental science, earning the Student of the Semester award in her algebra and environmental science courses.

She found that she loved geography. She earned respect from fellow students, who admired—and followed—her work ethic, said her geography professor, Dr. George Lonberger.

She made As and Bs in all her classes and earned membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society.

Autry can’t believe her college journey at GPC is over. “It’s been good for me,” she says. “I’ve learned so much. Going to college helps keep me young.”

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Georgia Perimeter College, the largest state college of the University System of Georgia, serves approximately 23,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.