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91-year-old Thai woman earns college degree

Diploma awarded by Thailand's king

At 91, Kimlan Jinakul became the oldest person to earn a college degree in Thailand when she was granted a Bachelor of Arts from the government-run Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.
At 91, Kimlan Jinakul became the oldest person to earn a college degree in Thailand when she was granted a Bachelor of Arts from the government-run Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University. (AVN/MCOT)

It took her 10 years, but 91-year-old Kimlan Jinakul earned a bachelor's degree from a Thailand university and, in a ceremony outside Banghok on Wednesday, was awarded her diploma by the country's king.

Kimlan became the oldest person to earn a college degree in Thailand when she was granted a Bachelor of Arts in human and family development from the government-run Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, according to Thai PBS.

"If we do not study, do not read, do not know, then we won't be able to speak and make sense," she said.

Members of Thailand's royal family have traditionally handed out diplomas at Thailand's public universities. King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, who took the throne last year, presented Kimlan her diploma in a ceremony attended by her family, which traveled from their home in Phayao province, 450 miles north of Bangkok.

Kimlan dropped out of college in the 1990s, but went back in 2011, when she was 85. Her son, Mongkol Jinakul, told Thai PBS that pursuit of the degree sometimes took its toll on Kimlan. "But we as her children tried to cheer her on and mom studied until the end and it was a success," he said.

The Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University offers part-time and remote learning for the elderly. The university had 199 students who were older than 60 this year.

"For the elderly, we focus on practicality rather than the academic aspect," Panumas Kadngaongam, acting dean of the university, told Thai PBS. "So the subject can be studied and put to use immediately."