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71-year-old Woman Beat Ills of Aging for College Education

May 25, 1993

WESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ Need inspiration? Take a cue from 71-year-old Lorraine Agan, who endured colon cancer, a near-fatal car crash and 17 operations, and intends to march Saturday in her college commencement.

Need a pick-me-up? Pick one up from Agan, who even sounded perky Monday morning at her family insurance agency, where she still works full-time.

″I do love life, because I was so near death. I’m really patched together,″ she said.

At 58, Agan began night classes for her bachelor’s degree in English at Westfield State College, partly to take her mind off her health.

″I signed on for English composition,″ she said. ″And I found I wasn’t dwelling on the cancer.″

She kept up her studies through the years, even when she was hobbled by an old knee injury from the car crash she barely survived in her 20s. Two years ago, she received an artificial knee transplant.

She must still complete a course in U.S. history and German culture this summer for her degree. But, like other August graduates, she will don a cap and gown for the graduation procession Saturday.

″I feel I should participate in the graduation,″ said Agan, who has three children and one grandchild. ″I’ve earned it.″

How did she deal with the younger generation on campus?

″They were very friendly,″ she said. ″They tried to help me if I needed help - especially up the stairs.″

She also credited the young for expanding her outlook.

″They’re free. We were bound,″ she said. ″I grew up with rules: Girls didn’t call boys, they only could walk together on Sunday afternoon. Looking back, it seems very Victorian.″

Agan, who graduated in 1939 from Westfield High, earned mostly B’s in her classwork.

″She has a great deal of energy and always comes prepared,″ said Bette B. Roberts, chairman of the English department.

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