Record: Jamaican-American Woman Receives University Degree at 96

Jamaican American Violet Edwards
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CNW- Jamaican American Violet Edwards has become the oldest African-American to receive a university degree at 96 years and 263 days old.

Mercy College, New York conferred the degree to Violet on Saturday, June 25. In addition to being the oldest African American Violet is the 5th oldest person in the world to receive a degree. Certainly, she is the oldest person in Florida to receive a degree.

Violet Edwards was born on October 5, 1925, in Kensington in the parish of Portland, Jamaica. She was the youngest of 3 children and was always an avid reader and a curious child. She excelled in school and became the first in her village to attend school at Happy Grove High School on a full academic scholarship. This was during World War II, and she remembers many sacrifices to obtain basic school supplies.

She went on to pass her Senior Cambridge exams, now known as Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate, which was necessary to continue to higher education. This was before the era of the Internet and exams had to be shipped to England for grading, as you can imagine students worried that the ship carrying these exams would become a casualty of war. Fortunately, Violet’s exam made it safely to England and back, bringing the good news that she was successful.

Violet devoted a lot of her time to volunteering both in Jamaica and in the USA. In Jamaica, she was active in the Portland Festival Committee, Disaster Preparedness Committee, and helped to start a credit union that is still in existence today. In the USA she started and was President of a neighborhood block association in NYC that was recognized by the then Mayor of the City for its accomplishments. She was and continues to be a force to reckon with. She gives generously of her time and still enjoys baking and cooking for friends and family.

However, money was not available to pursue higher education, so Violet entered the workforce. She made a successful career in the Jamaica Postal Service and quickly climbed the ranks to become the first appointed Female Regional Inspector, a position that put her in a supervisory role in charge of a portion of the island’s post offices.  She retired from the position and moved her family to the USA to pursue better opportunities.

Violet focused on family and getting her daughter through medical school. Violet Edwards’ daughter is Christine Edwards, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., Medical Director, Florida Perinatal Center, LLC.  Once that goal was accomplished, she decided to go to college to pursue her degree while working full time.

Again, financial roadblocks intervened, and she was not able to complete her goals, reluctantly leaving school 1 year shy of obtaining her goal of a bachelor’s degree. She spent the intervening years helping her daughter establish her medical practice, helping to raise her grandchildren and recently opted to return to college to accomplish her goal before she celebrates her centennial.

One phone call however revealed that her prior school, The College of New Rochelle had gone out of business, just the year before. Mercy College in New York had become the custodian of the student records. So off to Mercy she went after being accepted as a Transfer student. Unfortunately, of her 84 credits earned at the College of New Rochelle Violet was unable to transfer all her prior college credits. 

Consequently, she had to settle for an Associate of Science degree, which she earned from Mercy College, New York with highest honors with a 4.0 grade point average.



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