Violet Edwards is the oldest African-American to receive a university degree at 96 years and 263 days old. In addition to being the oldest African American, Violet is the 5th oldest person in the world to receive a degree. She is the oldest person in Florida to receive a degree.
Violet Edwards was born on October 5, 1925, in Kensington in the parish of Portland, Jamaica. Growing up, she was the youngest of 3 children and took great likeness to read due to her relentless curiosity. She was an excellent student in school and subsequently became the first in her village to attend school at Happy Grove High School on a full academic scholarship. Despite the ravaging World War II and the difficulties attached to accessing basic school materials, Edwards successfully passed her Senior Cambridge exams, now known as Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate. As it was during the evolution of the internet, examination materials had to be shipped to England for grading and this worried Edwards and many other students that the ship carrying these exams would be caught in the web of destruction because of the war. Thankfully, Violet’s exam made it safely to England and back, bringing the good news that she was successful.
With an avid passion to do voluntary work, Violet Edwards committed a lot of time to volunteering both in Jamaica and in the USA. In Jamaica, she was active in the Portland Festival Committee, and Disaster Preparedness Committee, and contributed to establishing a credit union that is still in existence today. As money was not available to pursue higher education, Viola further delved into the workforce. She enjoyed a successful career in the Jamaica Postal Service. Violet Edwards made history as the first appointed Female Regional Inspector, a position which placed her in a supervisory role in charge of a portion of the island’s post offices. She retired from the position and moved her family to the United States to seek better opportunities.
In the United States, Violet Edwards focused on family and ensured that her daughter graduated medical school. Her daughter, Christine Edwards, M.D., F.A.C.O.G, is the medical director at Florida Perinatal Center, LLC.
Once that goal was accomplished, Edwards enrolled in the College of New Rochelle in the early 1980s but reluctantly left school one year short of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree due to financial constraints. Nevertheless, it didn’t falter her spirit and the proud mother and grandmother, helped her daughter establish her medical practice and cared for her grandchildren.
She recently opted to return to college to accomplish her goal before she clock her centenary celebration. Unfortunately, it was revealed that her prior school, The College of New Rochelle was out of business a year before. Mercy College in New York had become the custodian of the student records. Violet went off to Mercy where she was accepted as a Transfer student. As a matter of ill luck, of her 84 credits earned at the College of New Rochelle, Violet was unable to transfer all her prior college credits.
Violet Edwards completed an online coursework for an Associate of Science degree, which she earned after being diagnosed with breast cancer in her last year of college
On June 25, Edwards graduated from Mercy College, New York, with the highest honors with a 4.0-grade point average (GPA).
Violet Edwards underwent successful surgery, beating cancer.