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103-year-old who survived COVID-19 honored by her alma mater


(FLORENCE, S.C.) — A “resilient” centenarian who survived COVID-19 enjoyed a birthday celebration with a visit from the president of her alma mater.

Catherine Miller Morgan Harris said she turned 104 years old on June 8, though the Census lists Harris as having turned 103.

Harris, who lives at a senior care center in her hometown of Florence, South Carolina, tested positive for COVID-19 on April 28, 2020, her niece Elizabeth Coleman said.

Her symptoms weren’t severe — she had a dry cough, low temperature and her oxygen was steady — and she avoided hospitalization, Coleman told ABC News. The staff kept a close eye on her, and she recovered, Coleman said.

Harris received her COVID-19 vaccine in January.

“She’s doing wonderful,” said Crystal Evans, the activities director at Carlyle Senior Care, where Harris lives. “She’s alert and oriented.”

“She loves the Lord,” and attributes her long life to her faith, Coleman said.

Harris’ life may have slowed down now, but back in the day she was a “go-getter” who pursued multiple careers, said James Clark, president of South Carolina State University.

Harris graduated from South Carolina State, an HBCU, in 1940 with a degree in education, Clark told ABC News.

Harris first worked as a teacher in North Carolina and South Carolina, Coleman said. She then returned home to Florence where she opened a public relations office and worked there as an accountant, Coleman said.

She also spent time as a writer for the Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore, Coleman said.

“It was hard back then for people of color to obtain any position of status, so I thought it was really fantastic that she was able to accomplish all that,” her niece said. “She enjoyed what she did. It was from her heart, and she enjoyed giving and doing.”

On Saturday, Clark — joined by university officials and Harris’ family, including Coleman — visited Harris at the nursing home to wish her a happy birthday. Clark presented Harris with a framed certificate and some university merchandise.

“She was very happy. You could see it on her face. She was smiling and laughing,” Coleman said.

“She’s a part of the family,” Clark said. “I just congratulated her, told her that we all loved her.”

“She’s a very resilient person,” he said.

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