CORVALLIS, Ore. — A record number of Oregon State University students will graduate this year, but one of them has been waiting more than half a century to get her diploma.
Seventy-six-year-old Lois Phillips has always considered herself an OSU graduate, but she never had the diploma to prove it. Now, after waiting 55 years, she finally has her degree and can officially call herself a true Beaver alumna.
Phillips hasn’t stepped foot on the OSU campus as a student since 1957.
“I think it was pretty much different. We didn’t have computers,” Phillips said.
After studying home economics for four years, she left Corvallis to join her husband Greg on assignment with the U.S. Air Force. She was just a few credits shy of getting her degree.
“They said, ‘Lois, you don’t have enough hours to graduate.’ I thought, I don’t know how this could be but, ok, but I can’t go another term,” Phillips said.
She went on to earn a few more credits from a school in South Dakota. Then years later, she decided to take those to Oregon State but was told her OSU credits were too old to count toward her degree.
“So I thought, oh darn, four years of school, the expense, you know, and it’s work, I thought, and I don’t have anything that I can market myself,” Phillips said.
However, she didn’t give up on getting an education. In 1974, Phillips graduated with a nursing degree from Wright State University.
Then in 2010, Lois’ daughter was concerned about her own daughter’s OSU credits expiring, so she paid a visit to the registrar’s office.
“That’s when they told me, ‘No, no, no. They don’t expire.’ And I said, ‘Well my mom’s expired’, and they asked me her name,” said Phillips’ daughter Tami Ellingson.
OSU started investigating into the situation.
“We discovered that Lois was given erroneous information. She was told her credits had expired, but here at Oregon State credits do not expire and she had truly at that time earned her degree, and we wanted to right that wrong,” said Coordinator of Student Services Kim McAlexander with the OSU College of Public Health & Human Sciences.
Fifty-five years later, Phillips got her bachelor’s degree from OSU, and she says she has no hard feelings toward the university.
“It just really feels good to really be a legitimate Beaver right now, and I’m just so grateful to the school of Public Health and Human Sciences for giving me this gift,” Phillips said.
Phillips has always had a deep love for OSU and health and human sciences. She’s worked as an RN with senior citizens, volunteered for 4-H, as well as lead groups in sewing, cooking and wood crafts.
She’s still happily married to Greg. Together they have four children, 17 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and have been foster parents to many others.
Phillips says she doesn’t plan on walking with her fellow graduates at this weekend’s commencement ceremony but says she will be there with them in spirit.