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As Eleanor "Jean" Kops walked across the stage to receive her diploma on Saturday, the crowd stood up and applauded the 87-year-old woman's accomplishment.
Kops attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln back in 1945, but ended up quitting after two years to work in the local welfare office. Her plan was to take just a year off, but then she met Lyle Kops, who also dropped out of college to enlist in the Marines, and they ended up getting married in October 1948.
"Back then, it just wasn't as interesting as it is now for women," Kops told TODAY.com. "There wasn't a lot of courses for women to choose from."
After Lyle passed away from Parkinson's disease in September 2011, one of her five daughters suggested she go back to school. Kops didn't think she'd be able to handle that big a feat, but was open to taking online classes, so she enrolled in two — "Women of the Great Plains" and "Issues in Aging" — at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was enjoying herself so much and receiving such great grades that by September 2012, she decided she was ready to attend the university in person.
"At first, I was really nervous about going in, but everyone was very accepting and we all ended up learning a great deal from each other," Kops said.
On the first day of her history class, which was held in a lecture hall with over 100 students, two guys sat next to her and engaged in conversation. The three of them ended up sitting in the same seats throughout the semester and got to know each other well.
Her sociology major allowed her to take a class on sexuality, which she found to be the most interesting.
"Both the professors and students are a lot more open about sex now than they were back when I was in school," Kops said. "You should've heard some of the things being discussed in class!"
Although Kops struggles with taking tests due to her short-term memory loss, she received much better grades this time around and thinks that technology played an important role.
"Back then we had to write everything out and look things up in encyclopedias," Kops said. "Computers save a lot of time."
After the graduation ceremony, Kops was the most popular person in the room. While 25 supportive friends and family members were waiting to take her to a party they threw in her honor, people lined up to meet her and tell her how much she inspired them.
Although Kops isn't taking the same path as many of her fellow graduates when it comes to employment, she still plans on keeping active. She is in the process of booking two trips this fall to Chicago and California to visit two of her daughters and is excited to spend time with her grandkids and other three daughters who live locally.