Rose the 87-Year Old College Student: Real or Fake?

A story about an 87-year old college student named Rose is a touching story about life, fulfilling dreams, and growing old. But is the story real or fake?

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It’s probably fiction.

We can neither confirm nor debunk the actual story, though it does read more like a modern fable than a true historic event. The story entitled “Never Too Old to Live Your Dream” was written by Dan Clark and published in the 1999 book entitled, “Chicken Soup for the College Soul: Inspiring and Humorous Stories About College,” and re-published in several later Chicken Soup books. This book contains stories, poems, and inspirational tales, and the Rose story certainly reads as an inspirational work of fiction. But again, we can’t completely say either way.

This is actually a 95-year old college student named Nola Ochs.

Real Photo: Nola Ochs

The image circulated with the “Rose” story is actually a snapshot of Nola Ochs, who in 2007 became the Guinness record holder as the world’s oldest college graduate at the age of 95. Her story is a real-life inspiration. She graduated from Fort Hays State University with a general studies degree with an emphasis in history back in 2007 at the age of 95. She graduated with her 21-year old granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs. Nola went on to earn her master’s in 2010 at the age of 98.

The Story

Here’s the story of Rose, the 87-year old college student, as passed around social media in 2013.

An 87 Year Old College Student Named Rose

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know.

I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned round to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, “Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?”

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave me a giant squeeze.

“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.

She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids…”

“No seriously,” I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

“I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake.We became instant friends. Every day for the  next three months, we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.

As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell
you what I know.”

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day.

You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.

We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it!There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.

If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old.

If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight.

Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change.

Have no regrets.

The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.”

She concluded her speech by courageously singing “The Rose.”

She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

At the year’s end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died  peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be. When you finish reading this, please send this peaceful word of advice to your friends and family, they’ll really enjoy it!

These words have been passed along in loving memory of ROSE.

REMEMBER, GROWING OLDER IS MANDATORY. GROWING UP IS  OPTIONAL.

We make a Living by what we get, We make a Life by what we give.

2014: 90 Year Old Graduates From College

In 2014, a 90-year old veteran graduated from college in a highly publicized story. Walter Bunker began his college journey back in the 1940’s before enlisting in the Army to serve in World War II. Over the years he slowly built up college credits while working for his uncle’s real estate business. Finally, 70 years after his first college classes, he decided to reach out to a registrar at Xavier, who discovered that Bunker only needed two credits in order to graduate. The university sent a professor to the man’s home for independent studies.

Bunker wrote two short stories to earn his final college credits, and received his diploma at the university’s graduation ceremony in May 2014.

When asked what prompted the man to finish his degree, Bunker stated in an interview with Xavier, “My son can say, ‘I have a master’s degree from Purdue.’ ‘My daughter in-law, ‘I have a master’s from Xavier,’ and my niece said she just got her master’s degree from North Carolina. I was thinking, I am getting older by degrees, so why don’t I get a degree?”

bunker

After receiving his Bachelor of Liberal Arts, the World War II vet joked, “Now I think I’ll have to go out and start looking for a job.”

The 90 year old was escorted by fellow graduate and veteran of the Iraq War, Ryan Hoefer. The men crossed their arms in an “X” to symbolize support for Xavier University.

When asked what he wanted to do with his degree, Bunker replied, “I want to be a cowboy.”

Bottom Line

The story of Rose the 87-year old college graduate is likely a work of fiction, although true-life stories of people in their 90’s graduating from college do exist, such as Nola Ochs and Walter Bunker.

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  • Sean

    The story is also well over 8 yrs old. Why write an article about it now?

    • waffles

      In our case, we only wrote about it now because it has been passed around recently as if it were a recent event.

    • sophia

      S3an, Story told now to in courage others that it’s NEVER to late to learn or get that collage education you’ve always wanted!!

  • Jeri

    Thanks for writing this! I found your site while googling to see if I could find out if this story is true or not. With the style of writing I thought it sounded more like a story written to inspire people — as you said, more like a modern fable than a historical event. It was neat to learn about Nola! :)

  • Charles Brown

    The real story is way better than the fictional one.

    • waffles

      That’s kind of what we were thinking.

  • I am someone

    I think whatever it’s true or false, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is to rememeber and share the message that we can do obviously whatever we want and whenever we want. I can’t believe you’re still debating on this, while it’s absolutely not important. Make a sense to what you do, don’t be that ridiculous, is it really important to know who is right or wrong here?

    • Adze

      Yes, that is the thing that matters.
      Though you should not disagree with people calling it not to be a real story but rather a inspirational one. You might be wrong in saying truth doesn’t matter in this case. As you like the story, i think you too googled for this article but finding out to be fake hurts you.
      No one here dislikes the story, everyone loves it. You should understand that. Calling other people “ridiculous” discourages logic and discussion.
      Well, that’s it i have to say.

  • Matthew

    Boy, is this a touching story. It’s hard to believe that this is fake until you say so, Waffles!

    • waffles

      Sorry… It’s still a great story. :-)

  • Truth does Matter

    Thanks for publishing the story. Truth actually matters, and so does copyright. When someone posts a photos of someone else and then combines it with fiction published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and doesn’t attribute either, that bothers me.

    It is a blatant violation of Copyright law and it should be reported to and removed from Facebook sights. Why? Simply because it’s not attributed and someone didnt’ go through the steps of asking permission.

    We living in a world that is entirely too trusting and gullible. We used to be more careful and now we apparently are so moved by things like this that we don’t take the time to carefully look at sources. Great story, even better photo–but whoever posted should attribute the source. You wouldn’t go into the grocery store and go home with a few things in your cart to place on your table, or distribute to your local food charity without paying–so in the same way you must pay for the source, or at least attribute when you post and share information that someone else produced. We need to think this way lest we feed more into the idea that everything on the internet is simply up for grabs.

    • Mere heureuse

      Truth definitely matters, even to the author of this story. In Dan Clark’s book “The Art of Significance” is included a chapter titled “Know The Whole Truth Instead of Believing What You Think.” I’m disappointed in him.

  • Jacque Sherrill

    I actually know this lady. She is alive and well and she lives in Jetmore, KS where I am from. Her name is Nola Ochs (pronounced Osh) and she will be 102 years old in November of this year – she is not the lady depicted in the story attached to her picture above. I have known her for years, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Every once in awhile I run into an Internet meme featuring her picture, or a story like this one using her picture and attributing it as someone else.

    • waffles

      Thanks for the comment. We have always said that Nola’s story is every bit as good as the fake story, and her’s is real!

  • Simcha

    I have had 4 strokes, open heart surgery, nerve damage in my lower back, etc..
    I am 76 years old and still work as difficult as it is sometimes (my own business).
    If the story about Rose is true or not is not important, some people think just because we get older we stop doing things, what is important is this is the time we should be as active as we possibly can. We all need inspiration to go on. YOUNG AND OLD. We need more storys like this one no matter how old they may be. The story about Moses and Noah are still told today aren’t they. Thank you, Simcha