State officials are encouraging day care directors to have more education, so Lewisburg native Betty Ann Ogilvie went back to college and is graduating Saturday during ceremonies at Columbia State Community College.
Ogilvie is a founder and has been the director of Wee Care Day Care on Fox Lane since it opened in January of 1988. That's 24 years ago next month. She and her friends raised $243,000 in this community and built it without borrowing money.
Research is being conducted, state officials have said, to determine whether Ogilvie, 79, is the oldest graduate in the state or at the community college, or perhaps just at the Lewisburg campus, but they're enamored with her accomplishment and planned surprises for her.
"It's over, thank goodness," she said Wednesday in her small office at the day care where she spoke of the one class she needed to graduate.
Ogilvie took her final exam in that course, statistics of math, on Wednesday evening.
Her son is a certified public accountant and she has grandchildren in college.
"They tried to help me and it was beyond them," she said, then quoting them as asking her, "'Mother, what have you gotten yourself into?'
"I've been wanting to do this since the 1970s," Ogilvie said. "But my husband died and three of our kids were in college and we had a 10-year-old.
"I had the day care in my home then," she said during a cordial conversation.
All she lacked was three hours in math to have the credits needed for an associate's degree, the diploma awarded by community colleges. While the community college became more available here because of city and county cooperation to build a campus on the bypass, there weren't enough students who wanted to enroll in such a course to make a class viable. So, she left completion of her course work, as she said, "on the back burner."
Then a friend at Middle Tennessee State University, Debbie Simpson, found a way to enroll her in a program of training for early childhood education. It combined her 52 years of childcare experience with academic courses so that with the statistics class, she'd be qualified for a diploma.
Sinan Merick taught the class. On the first day, he explained what was expected and she had some choice words for herself.
"Betty Ann," she said, recalling what she thought listening to Merick, "get your purse and get out of here."
The students were told to introduce themselves. One said they enrolled because they had to. Another has tattoos and a Mohawk haircut. He spoke after Ogilvie introduced herself.
"'She's diapered me many a time,'" she said quoting one of her former charges at the daycare.
Most of the tests and homework are conducted on a computer Ogilvie has at home. Her daily routine has been to: work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the daycare; go home; have supper; take a bath; and then go to her computer.
Tuesday night she studied for the final exam past midnight, turning in at 1 a.m.
Now that she's completed the course work, and it seems clear she'll be holding a diploma on Saturday, she's still unsure where she'll display the document.
"I may just carry it around with me and show it to everybody," Ogilvie said.
Her husband, Bill Ogilvie, died in 1974. They have four children. Will lives in Franklin and works for a company that builds Dollar General stores. Pat Sturm of Clark Hill, Ind., is a homemaker. George teaches at Mt. Juliet, and Lynn Leonard is a physical therapist at St. Thomas Hospital.
"My own children talk of me as a child, saying, 'When mother grows up, we're going to let her do so and so.'
"And people ask me, 'Why don't you retire?' I don't want to. They say, 'You need to do what you want to do,' but I do, although 12 hours a day does get a little old.
"I've retired five times, but I'm not happy to set at home," Ogilvie said. "I'd be a basket case in a week.
"I love children. They say what they think.
"When they come up and hug you and kiss you; to me, that's better than money."
She does concede that 80 is a "little old to be running a business," but the profits she reaps are priceless, but now, with a college degree, she may continue without a state comment on continuing education of the director.