On Saturday, Charlotte Little will don a cap and gown to receive a college degree she started earning nearly 50 years ago.
"It is going to be neat to walk across that stage," the 67-year-old Lincolnton, Ga., woman said.
She'll walk away from Bob Jones University, a Christian college and seminary in Greenville, S.C., with a bachelor's degree in biblical counseling with minors in Bible and psychology.
Little, known to friends as "Little Bit" because of her 4-foot, 10-inch stature -- began her extended college career as a typical student in 1959 after her high school graduation. Her major was elementary school education.
During her two years on campus, Little met and dated Floyd King Little, her future husband. The couple married in 1962.
"I didn't have enough money to finish two more years plus pay for a wedding," said Little, who married at age 20. "So, I decided I wanted to spend my money on a wedding."
Little stayed at home for about 20 years, raising the couple's three sons before going back to work as an investigator for the federal Office of Personnel Management. She worked nine years there conducting background checks for security clearances for companies such as Savannah River Site.
"It was a great job and I loved it," said Little, who lived in Martinez for 23 years until she and her husband moved to a rural Lincolnton home seven years ago.
After losing her job when the office was downsized, Little said she worked a few secretarial jobs. She then started a five-year stint as a personnel security analyst for Wackenhut, conducting security clearance and mental competency interviews.
But after retirement, Little said, she wanted to finish her degree, this time focusing on Biblical counseling.
"I've always had the desire to finish," Little said. "I wish I had done it sooner. But I have a real desire to counsel, to help people. Because I think I have learned so much, I want to give that knowledge out, make it useful.
"I want the Lord to be able to use me to help people to make their lives better."
Little was nervous about heading back to college, fitting in and being able to comprehend the material at her age. She began taking classes at Augusta State University in 2005.
"It is always fun to learn. The world has changed so much since I went to Bob Jones University in 1959," Little said.
After a year at Augusta State, Little said she headed back to Bob Jones to finish her degree through extended education courses. Little said she has spent nearly a year watching DVD lectures from a comfortable chair in front of her fireplace, sending homework assignments in by e-mail and taking tests locally in front of a proxy.
Now, nearly 50 years after Little began college work, she said she's looking forward to receiving her degree and beginning to counsel.
But more schoolwork may loom on the horizon for the grandmother of three, who said she is considering getting a master's degree in Biblical studies.
"I really need to give the Lord the praise for getting me through school rather than taking it myself," Little said. "I could not have done it myself. It was done through His strength and the ability that He gave.
"At first, I had a real fear of failing. But I think God had instead a miracle in mind that he would get me through."
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