NSU’s oldest living graduate celebrates 110th birthday this week

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Earline Hart Andrews holds a book from Northwestern State University where she is the oldest living graduate. She was awarded her diploma in 1931. Andrews will celebrate her 105th birthday on October 28. (Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph)

NATCHITOCHES – Earline Hart Andrews, NSU’s oldest living graduate, celebrates her 110th birthday this week.  Though her hearing and eyesight are poor and she uses a walker for mobility, Andrews’ memory and intellect are as sharp as ever. Andrews graduated from Louisiana Normal, as NSU was then known, in 1931, and spent 43 years teaching in Texas before retiring in 1975.

Born Oct. 28, 1910, she described riding a horse to Vivian High School from her father’s farm just over the Texas line and falling into the habit of racing — and outrunning — Model Ts, for which she was reprimanded by her parents.  She enrolled at Normal after graduating from Vivian High and arrived in Natchitoches with seven other girls from her class, never having been away from home before.  At that time, girls only left their dormitories at prescribed times and students paid a quarter to watch silent movies on Saturday evenings.

Andrews was awarded her diploma in the heart of the Great Depression when jobs were scarce and some schools had to pay their teachers with “scripts” that didn’t necessarily cover their salaries. She sought employment in an oilfield town near El Dorado, Arkansas, taught there for four years at a salary of $120 a month. She returned to Texas in 1934 to teach at Overton near Kilgore at a salary of $100 per month and held that position for 14 years. She earned a master’s degree in history at Stephen F. Austin and later retired after teaching in Tyler, Texas, for 26 years.

“I was a very dedicated classroom teacher,” she said.

Her memories of Normal include campus buildings and codes of conduct that are long gone. Like many alumni, Andrews recalls her days at Normal as a time of learning and forming close friendships with her classmates. Many were from rural areas and away from home for the first time. Because trips off-campus were limited, the students entertained themselves with social and cultural programs, athletic events and recitals.

An avid reader and traveler, Andrews during her life visited 48 states in the U.S., and every continent except for Antarctica and Australia.  She is also a genealogist who traced her ancestors to the 500s.

Andrews was a long-time resident of Tyler but relocated to the Fort Worth-area to live with a niece a few years ago.