After waiting 82 years, Naomi Wheatley Thompson Woods received an honorary ETHS diploma at a June 27 ceremony at the high school.
Ms. Woods was born on May 31, 1917, in Washington D.C. and moved with her family to Evanston when she was a girl. She went through the Evanston school system and attended ETHS from 1932 to 1934 but did not graduate. Unfortunately, her schooling was cut short due to the Depression. Like many young people, helping the family make ends meet came first.
In presenting Ms. Woods with her diploma, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon noted that every attendee of ETHS is a Wildkit from the moment they first walk through the door, not when they receive their diploma. Though her diploma is just now becoming official, he said, Ms. Woods has been a lifelong Wildkit at heart.
Voluntarily leaving high school to support one’s family is not common today. And though this decision must have been difficult, the choice that Ms. Woods made exemplified the vigor of her commitment to her family—a trait that was highly praised by Dr. Witherspoon.
Ms. Woods was accompanied by a host of friends and family members, some of whom graduated from ETHS, including Doris Kelley (class of 1937) and James Kelley (1970). The ceremony was also attended by ETHS staff as well as members of the School Board.
The idea to grant Ms. Woods an honorary diploma came from her family. They noted Ms. Woods always regretted not finishing high school, and that she placed a high value on education. Dr. Witherspoon noted, “[Ms. Woods is] 100 years old and still understands the value of an ETHS diploma.”
After leaving school, Ms. Woods wanted to be a writer. But she only started pursuing her passion in her fifties when she began writing poetry. In his speech introducing Ms. Woods, Dr. Witherspoon noted that she has been a constant advocate for education, a statement many family members nodded their heads in agreement with.