When Domino's Pizza ® heard about Nola Ochs's college graduation from Fort Hays State University, they offered to help her celebrate with a back-to-school pizza party for the 95-year-old graduate.
"We know college students love pizza, so we thought we would celebrate Nola's graduation from FHSU by throwing her a pizza party," David A. Brandon, chairman and CEO of Domino’s Pizza, said in a letter to Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University. "Nola's commitment to education is remarkable and her positive attitude toward life is an inspiration. This is our way of saying congratulations to the new graduate."
President Hammond returned a letter of thanks to Brandon that stated in part: "Thank you for sponsoring a pizza party for Nola Ochs and several dozen of her fellow students and friends at FHSU. We are considering this a 'congratulations and welcome back' party in honor of Nola's accomplishments and return to campus as a graduate student. … I'm sorry that you will be unable to attend the party, but we will ensure that your letter is read to Nola. She is a most gracious person and is delighted to be the recipient of your kind gesture."
Ochs first took a college course in 1930 -- a correspondence course from Kansas State Teacher's College, which is now FHSU. When her husband of 39 years, Vernon, died in 1972, she was looking for something to occupy her mind and, in 1978, she enrolled in a history class and a tennis class at Dodge City Community College. Over the next 10 years, she took a class or two in the summer and fall semesters, commuting the 26 miles from Jetmore. In 1988 she graduated from DCCC with an associate's degree in general studies.
She enrolled at St. Mary's of the Plains College in Dodge City in 1991 with the intention of finishing her bachelor's degree, but the college closed before she could finish. Then she turned to FHSU, taking Virtual College classes. She decided to finish the last 29 hours on campus because, she said, "I wasn't having any fun. I wanted to come to the campus, where all the students were." Ochs graduated from FHSU in May 2007 with a bachelor of general studies degree with an emphasis in history. She is, according to "Guinness World Records," the oldest person in the world known to have graduated with a bachelor's degree. Her graduation generated media attention around the globe.
Over the summer after her graduation, Ochs actually took the cruise that she had joked about to all the newscasters who had asked her what she planned to do with her degree. "That cruise was something else," she said. "That boat was 15 decks high. We were in No. 12, and one end of our stateroom was glass doors to a little balcony right over the water. Of course, it was a long way down, but it was right over the water."
She also planned all along to return to school. "One thing I know," she said then, "is that I'm going to take a class somewhere."
Back from her cruise, Ochs checked into courses in Dodge City, but soon found that she could not take any that would count and transfer as graduate credits. "I just realized I had to come back here to do what I wanted to do," she said. "The boys kind of resented having to move me home and then move me back." She is majoring in history.
Domino's will provide pizza for more than 100 of Nola's guests. The list includes her teachers; classmates; neighbors; friends; the staff of the Admissions Office, which includes her granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs; the members of the Student Alumni Association; and the entire Lady Tigers basketball team, including both players and coaches.
A special feature of the pizza party, which is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, is that it will be held in the Robbins Center, brand new home of the FHSU Foundation and the Alumni Association. That seemed the perfect location for a party in honor of FHSU's most celebrated recent alumna. "The location was chosen to allow students to see the facility that they will eventually call 'home' upon graduating," President Hammond wrote in his letter to Domino's Chairman and CEO Brandon.
Note to editors/news directors: It was necessary to make attendance at the party by-invitation-only due to limited seating, but members of the media are welcome to attend and join in the festivities.
About Domino's Pizza®
Founded in 1960, Domino's Pizza® is the recognized world leader in pizza delivery. Domino's is listed on the NYSE under the symbol "DPZ." Through its primarily franchised system, Domino's operates a network of 8,449 franchised and company-owned stores in the United States and more than 55 countries. The Domino's Pizza® brand, named a Megabrand by Advertising Age magazine, had global retail sales of nearly $5.1 billion in 2006, comprised of $3.2 billion domestically and nearly $1.9 billion internationally. During the second quarter of 2007, the Domino's Pizza® brand had global retail sales of more than $1.2 billion, comprised of approximately $754.7 million domestically and approximately $492.5 million internationally. Domino's Pizza was named "Chain of the Year" by Pizza Today magazine, the leading publication of the pizza industry and is the "Official Pizza of NASCAR®." More information on the company, in English and Spanish, can be found on the web at www.dominos.com.