“I’m definitely proud and walking a little taller,” Gretchen Wilson told reporters Monday (June 2) shortly before the start of a party staged to celebrate her recent acquisition of a high school diploma. The event was held at the Nashville headquarters of Sony BMG, Wilson’s record company. “I just feel a little more grown up,” the singer continued.
Wilson, who left school after the eighth grade, completed her academic requirements for a diploma through the Wilson County adult education department after more than a year of study. Her old friend and current neighbor, Charlie Daniels, spoke at her May 15 graduation.
Wilson said she had been so busy touring and finishing her fourth album that she didn’t get to rehearse for her academic procession. “My classmates had to coach me through it,” she confessed.
Now that she has a diploma, Wilson said she is qualified to homeschool her 7-year-old daughter Grace through the sixth grade if she should want to go on the road with her. With a college degree, Wilson added, she could homeschool Grace through high school. She noted, however, that she has no plans right now to pursue a degree.
Wilson said she’s expecting great things from her upcoming album. “I love it so much I want to see people’s faces when they hear it.” Her lead single from the album, “Don’t Do Me No Good,” which she co-wrote with Wade Kirby and Ashley Gorley, is due out “sometime in July.”
Guests entering the party room saw a large photo prominently displayed on the stage of Wilson dressed in her cap and gown. Tiny cutouts of mortarboards were strewn on the tables as decoration.
While partygoers dined on Mexican food, Sony BMG chief Joe Galante introduced Bernadine Nelson, director of the Wilson County adult learning center, who shepherded the singer through her studies. Nelson said Wilson was concerned at the outset about her deficiencies in math, having studied neither algebra nor geometry while she was in school. Even so, Nelson noted, she passed the math part of her final exam with no trouble.
Nelson said she was impressed by Wilson’s intelligence and sense of purpose from the first time she met her. “She was so gracious, so articulate.” Wilson declined the invitation to speak at her graduation ceremonies, according to Nelson, because “she didn’t want to diminish the importance of the other students’ achievements.”
Following Nelson’s remarks, Galante summoned Wilson to stage and presented her a Tiffany locket. “It’s the first time as a label head,” he observed, “that I’ve done a graduation ceremony.”
“I was supposed to be Class of ’92,” Wilson told the crowd with a grin. She added that she was happy to serve as a role model for education. “It’s such a valuable thing for yourself — inside.”
Galante then beckoned Wilson’s labelmates Montgomery Gentry (Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry) to the front of the room. “I think they’re singing the school song,” he joked. As it turned out, the two were appearing as spokesmen for the University of Phoenix, which has partnered with them to give away 12 scholarships to the school to worthy recipients. The private university has campuses throughout the country and values its scholarships at $50,000 each. Montgomery Gentry gave one of the scholarships to the foundation Wilson has set up.
“I may end up having to use it myself,” Wilson said tongue in cheek.