This 102-year-old got her doctorate 77 years after Nazis wouldn't let her even take the test. BOOM.

In the 1930s, none of this seemed possible. But here we are.

Ingeborg Rapoport escaped two oppressive government regimes (one was McCarthy-era USA ... oops), got a ton of education, reduced the infant mortality rate in a huge western country (Germany), became Europe's first neonatal professor, and raised a Harvard professor (and three other kids!).

But she wasn't done.


It was time to stick it to the Nazis.

BOOM goes the doctorate. Image via The National Archives UK/Flickr and German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons (altered).

How?

By finishing the degree from the University of Hamburg that the Nazi regime denied her when she was 25.

At the age of 102.

And not an honorary one. NO! It's the actual doctorate she was denied in 1937 because her mom was of Jewish descent.

She'd done everything she needed to do to get a medical doctorate. She just had to defend her thesis on diphtheria (a leading cause of infant death in Germany in 1937, when she was originally set to graduate).

But according to the Nuremberg Laws passed in 1935, she wasn't allowed to do her oral exam.

That's messed up.

Fast forward 77 butt-kicking years later, and Ingeborg was going to defend her doctoral thesis.

We're talking a thesis on diphtheria. And not 1937 diphtheria ... modern diphtheria. Yes. She would have to be completely adept and she would be graded on the normal University of Hamburg scale for defending a doctoral thesis in 2015. Very serious. And very hard.

ONE EXTRA PROBLEM:

Ingeborg can't see very well anymore.

She can no longer read normal text, and she cannot use a computer.

NO.

No no no.

But she didn't worry.

Because she had friends. She had been living in Berlin after leaving McCarthy-era America in the '50s. She'd had an amazing medical career. But it was time to form a study group! Her study group studied up for her (they researched, read, and studied modern diphtheria) and called her up to recite all their new diphtheria knowledge!

Her study group of friends gave her all the details she needed. After all, she did have a head start (big-time) as one of the top neonatal doctors in Germany. But at 102 when you have a doctoral thesis to defend, ya gotta have friends.

AND?

She passed.

She told the BBC:

"It was about the principle ... I didn't want to defend my thesis for my own sake. After all, at the age of 102 all of this wasn't exactly easy for me. I did it for the victims [of the Nazis]."

BOOM.


True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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Photo by Sterling Pics

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