Storer College was established in 1867 with the objective of offering an education to slaves freed in the Shenandoah Valley in the wake of the Civil War, as reported by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
According to the National Park Service, the school taught 7,000 pupils throughout the course of its 88-year existence until shutting in 1955.
Merill Cooper studied English, Latin, algebra, science, and even history while still at Storer College.
However, during his senior year, “life circumstances interfered when he relocated with his mother to Philadelphia for monetary reasons,” according to the Journal of Christian Scholarship.
As Cooper said to the Washington Post, he was aware his single mother would be unable to make the last tuition payment, so he offered for them to move to Philadelphia so they could be closer to relatives.
I bow to you, Merrill Pittman Cooper! 😍
“I can’t think of a happier day,” said Cooper, who now displays his framed diploma on his bedroom dresser.
“Even though it took me awhile, I’m really happy to finally have it,” he said. https://t.co/u97ckJfkYW
— An, van Lirian 🌳 💚 (@LirianLeest) March 26, 2022
“I simply concluded it was better not to continue at the school after she put in so much effort. She tried incredibly hard, and it just got so stressful,” he said.
Cooper lived in Philadelphia for 50 years, working in the transportation industry and finally rising to the position of union vice president, according to the JCS.
In an interview with the Washington Post, he said, “I became so engrossed in working and earning a livelihood that my ambitions just went out the window.”
Cooper paid a visit to the old Storer campus, which is now a part of Harpers Ferry National Register of Historic Places, in 2018. He expressed regret for having failed to complete his degree requirements.
In a statement, JCS noted, “Cooper’s family members sought out the park employees. They then initiated a collaborative effort with local, regional, and state institutions to memorialize Mr. Cooper, his tenure at Storer, and his life outside of the campus.”
101-year-old man Merrill Cooper finally receives his high school diploma, @ABC reports.
Cooper’s dream was to one day become a lawyer but he was unable to continue his education because his family couldn’t pay his tuition. pic.twitter.com/BLnyrZz8zt
— Buzzing Pop (@BuzzingPop) March 20, 2022
Cooper received his high school certificate as a result of collaboration between JCS and the Storer College of National Alumni, the Harpers Ferry Historical Park, and the WV Department of Education.
The 101-year-old was awarded the degree on March 19 at a ceremony attended by his entire family, according to a Facebook post from the JCS.
According to the New York Post, the event was held in Jersey City since Cooper now resides in Union City, New Jersey.
If you are reading this and you have been putting things off due to life’s difficulties or trials, take Merill Cooper’s determination as motivation and start achieving your goals.
If a 101-year-old can go back to school, surely you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
So, next time you try to use the excuse “I’m too old” to go back to school, you better have a talk with Mr. Cooper, because if anything, Mr. Cooper would consider himself too young!