LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — Nineteen-year-old Abby Ruschaupt and her grandmother made history at Northern Virginia Community College over the weekend, when both women received their associate’s degrees on the same day.
Sara Ruschaupt, 76, grew up in a time when girls generally were not encouraged to pursue advanced education. One of 18 siblings in D.C., she graduated high school in 1956 and went to work at the Atomic Energy Commission immediately afterwards.
That’s where she met her husband, who she married in 1963. They raised four children together.
It wasn’t until after she retired that she took her first college course. That was in 1993.
She had to put her studies on hold a few times, when one of her grandchildren had to undergo a series of heart operations and when one of her sisters was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to a NVCC news release.
But she took it one class at a time, until the granddaughter who hadn’t even been born yet the year she took her first class caught up to her.
“That was a riot,” Abby said. “Just having them know who she was and then I’m coming into the class after her and them asking ‘Oh are you Sara’s granddaughter?'”
The amount of time it took to get her degree doesn’t really bother Sara, though, she’s just glad to still be learning new things at her age.
“If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it,” she says. “You can do it. No matter how old you are, you can do it.”
In fact, Sara has already registered for another class at the college since getting her diploma Sunday.
Although Sara and Abby were thrilled to be on stage together on their graduation day, one very important person was sorely missed at the ceremony — Don Ruschaupt, Sara’s husband of 50 years and Abby’s grandpa. He passed away in November.
But, Sara found a creative way to honor her late husband, who she says was one of her biggest supporters. “Don, I did it!” was written on her graduation cap.