72-year-old Rockette graduates college

May 6, 2009 3:45:24 PM PDT
Thousands of college students are getting ready to graduate this month, but only one has a story like Lillian Vecchio.When 72-year-old Lillian joined the high kickin' Rockettes after high school in 1955, she never dreamed she'd earn her college degree a half-century later.

"When I was a Rockette, who would have thought there would be something called women studies? What is that, home ec?" Lillian said.

As the widow and mother neared her 60's and semiretired from office work, a decision to take few art history classes turned into a 7-year quest for a Bachelors Degree in American Studies.

She's in the Go 60 program on Penn State's Brandywine campus. It allows people over 60 to take free classes, space permitting.

She graduates this month.

Classmates, a fraction of her age, enjoyed the life she brought to book lessons.

19-year-old Justin Hughes had history class with Lillian.

"She was alive during that time so she was able to input what she experienced at that time," Justin said.

Learning technology was Lillian's biggest challenge.

She mastered logging on and PowerPoint presentations.

Tech savvy classmates find the woman who's old enough to be their grandmom inspiring.

"Basically I can do anything I want. It doesn't matter your age. You can just go out there and just reach your goals," 18-year-old Melissa DeLicci said.

She finds their determination to build a better world encouraging.

"At that age, you're pretty optimistic, you have ideas, and nobody's going to squelch them. I trust that," Lillian said.

Lillian doesn't dance like she used to, but with exercise and yoga, the quick stepping Rockette alum is In great shape.

She wants to use her degree to work at a museum or historic site.

For now, she's proud enough to kick up her legs like she used to in celebration of her academic achievement.

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