EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSOLDEST ALUMNA
from Eyewitness News Online
West Virginia State University's Oldest Alumna Prepares For Her 102nd Birthday
Reported by: Bethany Simmons
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Reported: Sep. 11, 2012 3:16 PM EDT
Updated: Sep. 11, 2012 3:47 PM EDT
Institute , Kanawha County , West Virginia
The woman believed to be the oldest living West Virginia State alumna will celebrate her 102nd birthday on Nov. 4.
Vada Smoot McGowan and her mother rode a train from Madison, W.Va., in 1929 to enroll at West Virginia Teacher Training High School, which at that time, was located on West Virginia State's campus, according to a news release from the university. That's where McGowan completed her high school education.
"While I am proud of all our graduates, Ms. McGowan's 50 years of devotion to public school education has represented West Virginia State with an uprightness and selfless dedication not often seen," West Virginia State President Brian Hemphill said.
Once she graduated, McGowan began studying for her bachelor's degree in education at West Virginia State.
McGowan knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was just a child. "From the time I was 7 years old in 1917, and I learned that there were school teachers, I knew I wanted to become one," she said.
McGowan describes her experience at West Virginia State as rewarding. "Those were very enjoyable years," she said.
McGowan said the rules of the dorm were different in the late 1920s. She said the students had study hall from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and were in bed with lights out by 9:30 p.m.
After a year and one summer of college course work at West Virginia State, McGowan was sent to a teaching position in Madison, but returned to campus for 10 summer sessions until she completed her bachelor's degree in 1944.
She taught grades one through 12 for 30 years in Madison. She then moved to Cleveland and taught primarily second grade for an additional 20 years in the Cleveland Public Schools, before she retired.
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