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Publish Date: 5/11/2005

A few minutes before Front Range Community College’s graduation ceremony Tuesday at Vance Brand Municipal Auditorium in Longmont, Candi Cloud, left, of Lafayette helps Catherine Ehrmann, 83, put a tassle on her cap signifying that Ehrmann belongs to Phi Beta Kappa honors society.Times-Call/Hunter McRae

Octogenarian Ovation
Woman, 83, graduates from Front Range with honors

LONGMONT — Forty-five minutes before the graduation ceremony started, Catherine Ehrmann still didn’t have her cap and gown.

However, after waiting 83 years for them, a few more minutes didn’t seem to cause her too much stress.

She also had a minute-long speech to think about. Others had written down their comments.

Ehrmann decided to wing it, and her method clearly worked out during the ceremony.

After her short speech, she received thunderous applause and later, when she accepted her degree, the applause was accompanied by a standing ovation.

Ehrmann, 83, on Tuesday earned her general education degree during Front Range Community College’s first Boulder County campus commencement, which was held at Vance Brand Municipal Auditorium.

She said she was initially worried that her age would be a problem with younger students and teachers.

“I thought they were not going to want to bother with me,” she said.

Instead, she was pleased to find teachers and other students were supportive of her academic efforts.

Ehrmann, who has seven adult children, began taking an art class at Front Range in 2001 after her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease forced her to take him to a nursing home.

It was hard for her to do, and the classes helped take her mind off his care.

“You have no idea how Alzheimer’s is such a horrible disease,” she said.

He soon died, and she continued with her studies and added to her course load semester by semester, although she had to skip one semester after injuring herself in a fall.

In 1940, Ehrmann graduated from Bushwick High School in Brooklyn, New York — an accent still lingers — and immediately went to work to help support her family.

“I wanted to go to college, but it was the Depression,” she said.

She married in 1949.

“I never dreamed of this,” Ehrmann said before the ceremony, adding that it was always more important to see to it that her children were educated.

A large contingent of the Ehrmann family attended the graduation, but the entire audience stood to honor her degree as she walked across the stage wearing her blue cap and gown and gold cords and sash to indicate her status as an honor student, which was hard-earned.

“It was fun watching her worry about grades,” said her son Peter Ehrmann of Longmont

Daughter Joan Sozio of Nebraska said the family is very proud of her.

“She’s in seventh heaven,” she said. “She’s almost unbearable.”

Ehrmann was one of 70 graduates who participated in the graduation ceremony and earned degrees and certificates from the Boulder County campus, which is in Longmont.

Front Range President Janet Gullickson conferred the degrees on the cheering graduates.

“We like to think we’re the best community college in Colorado and perhaps the galaxy,” she said.

Instead of a central speaker, the college has a series of speakers, including Ehrmann, talk for one minute each about how Front Range affected their lives.

“I want to thank all of the teachers and the students who helped me through this because it has been some years since I have been in a classroom,” Ehrmann said.

She said she may even go back, but dreads the possibility of having to take algebra.

Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at pshields@times-call.com.

View complete list of Front Range Community College Graduates

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