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At 101, she may be oldest graduation speaker in U.S. Age is 'just a number' to her

At 101 years old, Ruth Johnson Colvin might become the oldest commencement speaker in the U.S. She will be speaking to the Le Moyne College on May 20.
At 101 years old, Ruth Johnson Colvin might become the oldest commencement speaker in the U.S. She will be speaking to the Le Moyne College on May 20. Courtesy photo

Ruth Johnson Colvin noticed a problem in 1962 — more than 11,000 people where she lived in upstate New York could not read.

And it was a problem she would spend a lifetime working to solve.

Now 101 years old, Colvin may become the oldest person to ever give a college commencement speech in the U.S.

The founder of Literacy Volunteers of America and a friend of literacy advocate Barbara Bush, Colvin had dedicated her life toward educating others around the world.

She was previously named "the mother of the adult literacy movement" and a teacher of not just words, but the stories that words can tell.

Welcomed to the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993 and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, Colvin may soon add another honor to her life's work.

Colvin is scheduled to speak at the commencement ceremony for Le Moyne College, a private Jesuit college in New York, on May 20. She will also receive an honorary degree from the college.

Le Moyne College spokesman Joe Della Posta told The Post-Standard that the college "could not find any commencement speaker over the age of 100 at any college or university in the U.S."

“The students are going to be very honored to have her there and get her message that they can do whatever they set their mind to, just like she did,” Della Posta told The Daily Orange.

Colvin has traveled to 62 countries and worked in 26 developing countries, and she still advocates for literacy through ProLiteracy Worldwide.

"Ruth Colvin is the quintessential lifelong learner," Le Moyne President Linda LeMura told The Post-Standard. "Her accomplishments are surpassed only by the way in which she joyfully shares her passion for literacy and learning with others. Now in her second century, her indefatigable spirit inspires us."

At more than 100 years old, Colvin still tutors adults on how to read and goes to the gym twice a week, The Daily Orange reported last month.

“Age is just a number,” Colvin told The Daily Orange. “It’s what you do with that number that matters.”

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