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Columbia College-San Luis Obispo to award degree to
85-year-old graduate

Monday, May 23, 2005

(San Luis Obispo, CALIF)- Columbia College-San Luis Obispo at Cuesta College will award a bachelor's degree in general studies to the oldest known Columbia College graduate at 6 p.m. Friday, May 27 at Cuesta College's Student Center Conference Room 5401. Thirty-two other students will graduate from Columbia College-San Luis Obispo, as well.

Catharina Bybee of Atascadero, Calif., will graduate at age 85. She is being researched by Guinness World Records as possibly the oldest graduate in the country.

Bybee spent her middle-age years raising her five children and working with her husband in Cayucos, Calif., at their car repair business. At age 56, she earned an associate degree in nursing, but it wasn't until she was 60 and suffered a massive heart attack that she realized she needed to enjoy life more fully. At age 72, she stopped working as a nurse and began traveling.

At 82, Bybee was taking a class at Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo when she decided to return to school for her bachelor's degree from Columbia College.

"I earned a B in my first class," Bybee recalls. "It was on Shakespeare, and I didn't know Shakespeare from Adam. But once I got going, I did fine."

For the next two years, Bybee didn't miss a class, and she always brought food for her classmates who were coming straight from work to school.

After her last class ended at Columbia College, Bybee began an intensive 60-hour program that will train her to be a senior peer counselor to senior citizens who are experiencing difficulties. With her new career, children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, Bybee said her life is full.

"I want to encourage my grandchildren and seniors that anything is possible," she said. "You can do anything if you put your mind to it, even if you are 85!"

Columbia College-San Luis Obispo offers on-campus and online bachelor's degrees in business administration, criminal justice administration, general studies/interdisciplinary studies, psychology and computer information systems. The campus is part of Columbia College's network of 30 nationwide campuses. Columbia College was founded in Missouri in 1851.