The teacher made some comments after Huston, née Liggett, forget her gym clothes, and ordered her to head to study hall. Huston told the teacher that she was going home instead, because she was married.
“Walking home, I thought ‘oh my gosh, I shouldn’t have done this,'” she told The Post in a phone interview Friday.
But it was too late. And in the wake of the outburst, Huston was expelled from high school, just shy of graduation. The reason, according to the family’s account: her marriage.
“In those days, you couldn’t be married and be in school,” Jan Larkin, one of Huston’s five children, told The Post.
The story is a pretty familiar one with Larkin and her siblings; Larkin said that her mother made no secret of the fact that it was the biggest regret of her life.
“We heard it all the time,” Larkin told The Post. “‘The stupidest thing I ever did was not finish high school, you kids have to have your education.’ So it really was a really huge thing for her.”
As Huston’s 93rd birthday approached, Larkin decided to see if she could do something about it. She sent a letter to Akron Public Schools, asking if they would award the diploma.
“I believe that my mother deserves to receive her High School Diploma, and it would be a wonderful accomplishment for her,” the letter read. “She mentors so many neighborhood children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, always pressing them to stay in school and complete their education, then go on to college.”
The school district agreed. On March 9, as the family gathered to celebrate Huston’s birthday, superintendent David James brought the diploma to her Ohio home. Huston was so overjoyed, Larkin said, she kept the diploma with her when she went to sleep afterward.
“While it may be an honor for Dorothy, for us it is a long overdue recognition of her achievement from her days as a student at APS,” James told the Akron Beacon Journal. “While any day certainly would have been suitable, we feel her birthday is the perfect occasion — what better gift for a life-long learner and one who has given so much to so many?”
The Beacon Journal reported that Huston’s children — Larkin, Diane Bailey, Carol Weiner, Donald Huston and John Huston — were on hand for the surprise, as well as members of the media.
Here’s how the newspaper, which used Huston’s maiden name in its account, described the scene:
“What’s the one thing you never did in your life that you wish you had?” Bailey said as she walked arm-in-arm with Liggett, her mother clearly shocked to find a small crowd assembled in her driveway.“Graduate,” Liggett replied.“Well, you are now,” Bailey said as one of her siblings pulled a black graduation cap from a box and placed it on her head.Superintendent James approached the tearful woman and ended 75 years of longing with a handshake and a diploma.
“Oh, it just feels wonderful,” Huston told The Post on Friday. “I feel like I’m 18 again and I just graduated. It feels good. I didn’t get to walk across the gym, but I get to have it. I just feel like my life is complete now.”