101-year-old West Virginian finally realizes dream of receiving high school diploma

by Trinity Cardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


A West Virginia centenarian is celebrating the achievement of a dream eight decades in the making. Last weekend, 101-year-old Merrill Pittman Cooper finally received his high school diploma.

Between 1934 and 1938, Cooper attended Storer College, a former high school in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. From there, the studious young man aspired to go on to college. Cooper was forced to put his dreams on hold, however, with the news his mother was moving the family to Philadelphia for “financial reasons,” he said. 

Cooper never did return to school but managed to go on to enjoy a successful career in transportation, at one point even becoming a union vice president. Still, Cooper’s family was aware that he deeply regretted the fact that he did not have a high school diploma. They eventually decided it was time to do something about it. 

In 2018, Cooper’s relatives enlisted the help of Jefferson County Schools. Together, they worked with the Storer College National Alumni Association, the West Virginia Department of Education, and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to find a way to honor Cooper for his achievements.

Their combined work culminated in a special graduation ceremony March 19, during which Cooper was awarded an honorary diploma. 

“Jefferson County Schools is committed to helping every student, young or old, fulfill their dreams,” JCS superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson-Learn said in a statement. “For Mr. Cooper, that meant receiving a high school diploma. We are honored to help make that dream a reality.”