Success Stories By Dick Kazan - Valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on July 31, 2007

Do you think you’re too old to achieve your dreams?

If so, you’ll particularly enjoy this story of Nola Ochs, who at 95 just became the oldest person to ever graduate from college, according to the Guinness [Book of] World Records.

In May, Nola graduated from Fort Hays State University in Kansas with her bachelor’s degree in general studies. And this was no “honorary degree,” Nola as a student earned her degree.

Raised on a Kansas farm, throughout her life, Nola has always enjoyed learning. After getting her high school diploma, she taught students in a one-room school, and later she became a wife and then a mother to her four children.

In 1930, 77-years ago, when Herbert Hoover was President, Nola started taking college classes by correspondence. After her husband of 39-years passed away in 1972, Nola began periodically taking classes again and over the years, she accumulated a lot of units.

By last fall, Nola was only 30-units shy of her degree so she left her farm and moved 100 miles to rent an apartment at Fort Hays State University to become a full-time student.

At first the history department chairman was skeptical as to whether she could keep up with the other students. But within a week, he realized she could and he saw something else special. Nola had lived through and could discuss much of 20th century history.

As a child, Nola had lived during World War 1, and as a teenager witnessed the “Roaring 20’s.” She’d also survived the poverty of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s and the many sacrifices of World War 2.

Later, she’d seen the introduction of television, computers, cell-phones, automated washers and dryers, photocopiers, microwave ovens and many other facets of modern history.

With first person accounts, Nola could make history come alive for the rest of the students.

With the Dust Bowl, for example, Nola could describe what it was like when the winds would howl as loud as a speeding freight train and the dirt the winds thrust in the air was so thick, that even in the daytime, lights had to be lit so people could see.

To keep the dust out of their homes, people hung wet towels along their windows and door ways and the dirt would hit so hard, it was if hale was pelting the towels.

Because of the Dust Bowl, many mid-west farmers could no longer raise a crop and they had to pack-up their families, abandon their farms and drive a thousand miles to California taking only what they could carry, to try to start new lives. She had story after story like this one.

But Nola also lives in the now and she is the matriarch of a family of four sons [one is deceased], 13 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. What will this new college graduate do next? She is considering taking more classes, traveling and she will weigh other opportunities life may present.

At her graduation, Nola received a special treat. This 5-foot-2 inch lively white haired woman was joined by her 21-year-old granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs, who graduated with her.

Success Tip of the Week: If you have a dream and are afraid the passage of time will take it away from you, do as Nola did. Start a little at a time and step by step, your dream will come into being.

Editor’s Note: For more details, please see

In the next KazanToday: A black man you may not have heard of, who courageously confronted bigotry and helped to change America.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!