“The flowers, and all of this. Oh, television. Who would’ve thought that for me?”
In 1952, James saw a newspaper ad for college classes offered at the school, then known as Nevada Southern, according to the UNLV News Center website. Although Las Vegas was segregated, the university was not.
James earned her bachelor's and master's degrees while teaching first grade in west Las Vegas' predominantly African American schools, the website reported. She took classes at night and during the summer, earning her bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1965 and her master's in 1971.
To be honored by the university was a dream come true.
"I said ‘Am I dreaming?’” James told KLAS. “I would advise anyone going to school, going to college, to come here.”
Born in Mississippi, James graduated from high school in 1935. Her teaching career began at Waterman School, a private boarding school in Cincinnati, the UNLV News Center reported.
"I tried to get into the nursing school," James told the website. "They wouldn't accept any blacks. The principal of the Waterman School said, 'Audrey, you're so good with kids you need to go to teachers college.'"
James taught third- and fourth-grade students at Globe Academy in Columbia, Mississippi, earning $97 a month. After moving to Las Vegas, she taught until retiring from Laura Dearing Elementary School in 1978.
James still works three mornings a week as a supervisor of "Fish," a local food pantry she opened 27 years ago, KLAS reported.