Georgia Gwinnett College hosts virtual fall commencement for students, including 75-year-old graduate

Pic of Jann Jospeh at fall 2020 commencement

GGC President Jann L. Joseph congratulates graduates during the college's virtual fall commencement.  

More than 500 graduates turned their tassels from the comfort and safety of their homes today, during Georgia Gwinnett College’s fall commencement, the second virtual commencement since the global pandemic took hold earlier this year. 

In honoring the “Unstoppable Class of 2020,” President Jann L. Joseph spoke of the commitment and perseverance of GGC students during the global pandemic and how challenges can become opportunities. 

“Because of how you have had to adapt, you have already become pioneers of this new normal,” she said. “Just look at all of the creative ways you have found to continue your studies, interact with groups of all sizes, hold events, present your projects and research, and even organize large conferences. You are already innovators and leaders, and you have gained powerful new perspectives about how to conquer barriers that stand between you and your dreams.”

One of the graduates watching Joseph’s address was Janet Lively. At 75 years young, Lively knows a thing or two about perseverance. The Duluth resident, who is a wife, mother of six and grandmother of 11, enrolled in GGC in 2012, taking one to two classes each semester. For the past eight years, Lively, who graduated from high school in 1962, juggled classes, homework and babysitting her youngest grandchild.

Despite the decades difference in their ages, Lively and her classmates connected really well. 

Janet Lively in cap and gown

Janet Lively

Janet Lively, 75, spent the past eight years taking classes to earn a bachelor’s degree in history. She graduated with honors today.

“Sometimes I would hang back during a group project to see if anyone volunteered to take the lead. If no one did, I jumped in and didn’t mind taking charge,” she said. “We would sit and joke together, it was fun.”

Now with a bachelor’s degree in history, the honors graduate has a number of options she might pursue. 

“I’m thinking of auditing some classes at GGC,” Lively said. “I’m into family history, so I’d like to get more deeply involved in that research. And now that I have a marketable skill, I might try to substitute at one of the schools.” 

Reflecting on her journey, emotions ran high as Lively described looking forward to, and feeling bittersweet about, this final step of her journey. 

“I have enjoyed every minute of going to school,” she said. “I love the professors. They are really great people. I love the class sizes. Going to school is something I’ve always wanted to do and the stars just aligned.”

View the recorded event at GGC’s Facebook page.

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