College degree an achievement for 80-year-old woman

80 year-old Beatrice Lillie with her degree from Houston Community College, full-filling her life-long dream.
80 year-old Beatrice Lillie with her degree from Houston Community College, full-filling her life-long dream. (Photo by Allan Jamail)

By Allan Jamail

Houston, TX. June 21, 2019 — North Channel Star writer Allan Jamail met with 80 year-old Beatrice Lillie, who recently obtained her lifelong dream of a college degree.

Jamail said he was first informed by Angelia Lillie, a church member at the Fifth Ward Church of Christ where they both attend, that her 80 year-old mother obtained her college degree.

“At 75 years old I I knew this was a quite an achievement and wanted others to learn and be encourage by Beatrice’s accomplishment,” Jamail said. “I had never met Beatrice so I invited her to lunch at Luby’s Cafeteria, where I gave her a red bouquet to congratulate her. She told me I could call her Ms. Bea as her friends do.

Ms. Bea said she graduated from Jack Yates High School in the 50’s, married, and had 6 children. She never had the chance to go college until recently; her children grown and on their own now afforded her the opportunity to go to college and get a degree.

As we sat there over her favorite lunch (chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy on the side, green beans, jalapeño cornbread and cherry cheesecake) I learned Ms. Bea had numerous life successes. She was a secretary in the Harris County’s Probation Department; she owned her own phone answering company until voicemail and cell phones came about; and she graduated with honors as Miss Franklin at the Franklin Beauty School as a Cosmetologist in the early seventies.

“Meeting Christ and being saved was my life’s greatest success. Although I know we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us, I was still amazed at the commencement ceremony as I walked across the stage at the NRG Stadium. After four years of college I was receiving my Associate’s Degree in Business Management,” Ms. Bea said.

She said, “Going to college and doing homework at my age taught me how to use the computer better, sharpened my mind in so many subjects including math, which was my hardest subject, and has brought me closer to my children and grandchildren. I’ve also learned about diversity and the arts.”

She has inspired many of her children and grandchildren, most of whom are enrolled in college now and attended the graduation ceremony. She wished her mother could have been there at the graduation.

“I think she really would have been proud,” said Lillie.

She is active in her church (New Mount Carmel) where she and other members sing hymns a cappella (without instrumental music accompaniment).

Beatrice plans to continue to volunteer at the Northeast Houston Multi-Service Center, serving food and helping with other senior activities. She just recently started a mini arts and crafts class at the center.

Ms. Bea doesn’t miss casting her vote in every election she is eligible to vote in. She remembers Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, before ever being elected to an office, coming to Harris County’s Smokey Jasper Park, visiting with parents of the baseball players during games.

Harris County has many community colleges which offer wide ranges of degrees for day and night classes. Colleges in or nearby Houston; Houston Community College, Lone Star College and San Jacinto College.

For a larger list of community colleges visit this website: