Tidwell receives GHS diploma at age 90

Published 5:23 pm Monday, May 26, 2014

Frances Sanders Tidwell knew almost immediately that she was not at Goshen High School Friday morning to honor the memory of her father, Gilbert Sanders.

The mention of “diploma” gave it away.

“That’s when I knew,” Tidwell said.

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At age 90, Tidwell was awarded a Goshen High School diploma and received a standing ovation from the students, school officials and community members who packed the gymnasium for the GHS Honor’s Day program.

Tidwell said she was surprised, honored and so proud to receive the diploma from her alma mater.

“When I was in Goshen last year for my 90th birthday, I said I wished that I had a high school diploma,” Tidwell said. “But, I didn’t think it would ever happen.”

Tidwell was a junior at Goshen High School in 1942. She had been held back in first grade so she was a year older than most of her classmates.

“One day, our principal, Mr. Theo Dalton, came and sat down beside me,” Tidwell said. “He asked me if I would like to skip my senior year in high school and go to college if he could get me a scholarship to Troy State Teachers College. I told him I would like to do that.”

Tidwell came from a big family. Her dad had 20 children by two wives.

“My mother died when she was 31 years old and left seven children, ages eight months to 10 years,” Tidwell said. “My daddy married again and had 13 more children. So, with a big family like that, I had no idea that I would be able to go to college. The scholarship was a wonderful chance for me.”

Dalton not only got Tidwell a scholarship, he got her two – one was a state scholarship and the other was a United Daughters of the Confederacy scholarship. She went to Troy State Teachers College and studied to be an English teacher.

Tidwell married a young man, Cephas Tidwell, from Malone, Florida, and began and ended her teaching career in the school system there.

“I taught English for 30 years and retired in 1982, Tidwell said. “After I retired, I substituted every day for six years. I just liked helping students.”

Tidwell’s interest in young people and desire to help them has not waned.

In 1999, she initiated the Frances Sanders Tidwell Scholarship Fund at Troy University.

Each year, the scholarship is awarded to a student who is pursuing a career in education.

The scholarship fund is evidence of the love and caring that Tidwell continues to have for young people.

Tidwell doesn’t have any children of her own but she has nurtured hundreds of children through her association with them at school and in her church.

Tidwell said the diploma she received from Goshen High School Friday morning is a treasure to be passed down through the next generations of Sanders.

Caylee Sanders introduced Tidwell to the GHS Honor’s Day audience and said that Tidwell’s dad, Gilbert Sanders, has had a child, grandchild or great-grandchild enrolled in GHS since it was constructed.

Caylee is the last great-grandchild with the last name Sanders to be enrolled at GHS.

“But there are still many of his great-grandchildren here,” she said. “We will now have to wait for the great-great grands to be born to carry on the Sanders tradition that has been here since Goshen High opened its doors.”

But probably not a one of them treasures his or her diploma more than Frances Sanders Tidwell, GHS graduate.