When Alice Ruth Walner left Turlock High School at 16-years-old without graduating, she did not imagine that she would return more than 60 years later to walk across the stage at the Turlock Adult School graduation ceremony to receive her high school diploma and give a speech to the graduating class.
“I can tell you as a school principal in adult education I am overjoyed at her persistence and her ability to overcome any barriers and challenges. She is extremely hard working, extremely motivated and never once used age as an excuse. She wanted to earn this just like everyone else,” said Isaias Rumayor, principal of Turlock Adult School who helped in selecting Walner as the speaker. “She captures the essence of what it is to be adult learner.”
While many were bewildered at her decision to obtain her diploma after retirement, including her own children, Walner found that the timing was right. With her children grown and her involvement in the community at a downturn, Walner chose to finally spend time working towards the degree she had always wanted. As a young girl, it was not uncommon for girls to drop out of school to become wives and mothers, but Walner always knew in the back of her mind she still wanted a high school diploma.
“It was a feeling of accomplishment that I wanted, getting that award that I wanted all this time,” said Walner. “I don’t need it. I’m not going to go to work. I just wanted to see it and I wanted to have it and now I do and that makes me proud.”
Concerned for her husband’s health, Walner chose to do the majority of her courses with an online component that allowed her to remain at home and meet with instructors for short periods throughout the week. With 67 and one half credits to go, Walner began her renewed academic career in September 2012 and completed her coursework just over a year later in November 2013.
On Wednesday, Walner walked the stage at the Turlock Community Theater with 70 other graduates to accept her degree. While biology was the most difficult subject for Walner and United States History and Government were the most enjoyable, the overall experience proved worthwhile. As for the diploma? It will be placed in a frame with her husband’s high school diploma in their office.
“Anything worth having is worth working for,” said Walner.