A 93-year-old woman has received her high school diploma 75 years after she was forced to drop out of school.
Eileen Delaney from Staten Island, New York, was awarded an honorary degree from Port Richmond High School’s class of 1945 earlier this month in celebration of her birthday.
‘I belonged to the alumni association all these years, I’ve always had letters from them, but I had no idea, I have to be honest, I had absolutely no idea this was going to happen,’ she told WABC of the surprise.
Graduate: Eileen Delaney, 93, from Staten Island, New York, was awarded an honorary diploma from Port Richmond High School’s class of 1945 earlier this month
Looking back: In 1945, Eileen was forced to leave school midway through her senior year because her stepmother insisted that she work and pay rent
Eileen was forced to leave school midway through her senior year because her stepmother was adamant that she help pay for household expenses.
‘She insisted my senior year that I got to work, that if I was going to live in the house that I paid rent, and I had no choice,’ she recalled.
Eileen was 18 when she started working for the New York Telephone Company, a job she said she felt ‘very fortunate’ to find because it didn’t require a diploma.
She later met her now-husband, Eugene A. Delaney, and got married. The couple went on to have six children together.
Eileen, who now lives in Virginia, has eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, according to People.
Making it happen: One of Eileen’s nieces contacted Port Richmond High School alumni association to help get the diploma, which was awarded by the school’s current principal
Special moment: Eileen happily tossed her graduation cap in the air after her family surprised her with the diploma on her 93rd birthday
The surprise was orchestrated by one of her nieces, who contacted the high school’s alumni association to get the diploma.
‘For someone who has done so much for everybody else and never asked for anything in return I felt like this was the least that we could do for her,’ Eileen’s granddaughter Delaney Elliot told WABC.
Port Richmond High School’s current principal, Andrew Greenfield, said awarding Eileen her diploma was ‘the easiest and happiest’ decision he’s made this year.
The matriarch was given the diploma while celebrating her birthday with her family, with long-distance relatives joining the party via Zoom.
Her daughter Maureen later took to Facebook to share photos of her posing with her diploma and tossing her graduation cap in the air. She also posted a black and white picture of her mother in her younger years.
Connected: Eileen’s family members watched her get the diploma via Zoom
Happy: While Eileen said she doesn’t have any regrets about how her life turned out, she was happy to have her diploma
Unforgettable: Eileen said getting her diploma was ‘like the topping on the cake’
‘We were able to celebrate our beautiful Mother’s 93rd birthday last night. It was perfect. A family zoom event is always more than you ever thought it could be,’ Maureen wrote.
‘Our Cinderella was also blessed with the thoughtfulness of being granted an honorary diploma 75 years after the fact through the kindness of current Principal Greenfield of Port Richmond and John Woodman of The Official Port Richmond High School Alumni Association,’ she continued.
‘She had to quit school to go to work at Ma Bell and unable to walk with the class of 1945. Thanks to all who made this birthday so very special…Mamie was so very surprised and delighted.’
Eileen told WABC that she doesn’t have any regrets about how her life turned out, but she is thrilled to finally have her diploma.
‘I’m very lucky. I’ve had a good life,’ she said. ‘This was like the topping on the cake.’