MOST graduating students have a small group of friends and family who cheer, whistle and applaud when they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. When Lola Ide made that important walk this past spring, the entire arena, including her classmates, gave her a standing ovation.
Ide, at 88, became something of a celebrity in the days leading up to commencement, as media learned of her graduation.
“It’s all been a little overwhelming,” Ide laughed about the attention she was getting.
Ide’s story – a 70-year journey to get a college degree – began in 1941, when she enrolled as a freshman at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.
“I was a speech and drama major,” Ide said. “I really wanted to get into radio.”
That path changed, however, when the young coed fell in love with and married Wilbur Lindsley, a young man studying to become a minister.
Life took Lola and Wilbur to churches in New York and Wisconsin. They had four children when Wilbur died at a young age in 1960. Eventually, Lola met and married another Lutheran minister, Conrad Ide. A widower himself, Conrad also had four children. Together, Lola and Conrad added a ninth child to the family.
As the years went by, Lola immersed herself in the busy life of a pastor’s wife and mother of nine. But she never lost her love of learning or the dream of someday finishing the college degree she had begun to pursue so long ago.
“Over the years, I kept dreaming I was back in college,” Ide said. “In my dreams, I went to about every college in Kansas.”
After Conrad’s death in 2004, Lola’s children encouraged her to consider going back to school.
She took the plunge in 2006 by enrolling at PSU and beginning with an online class. She loved being back in school and soon settled into a routine of taking classes on campus in the summer and fall and online classes for the spring semester so she didn’t have to get out in bad winter weather.
Bobby Winters, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor in the Department of Mathematics, said Ide brought a special dynamic to the classes in which she enrolled.
“She brings life experience,” Winters said. “She offers a perspective that is different from other students. The faculty I’ve heard from love her.”
Ide said completing her degree was a learning experience in many ways.
“In every class, I learned not only the subject matter, but I learned a lot about myself,” Ide said.