It’s never too late to accomplish anything in your life. That was certainly the motto of Bob Barger, a 96-year-old retired World War II veteran who returned to school after almost seven decades to get his degree.
The man, who worked as a pilot for the Navy during and after the war, finally graduated and received his associate’s degree this year to standing ovation from the crowd at the University College at Toledo, Ohio.
“It was something I never dreamed of,” the proud veteran told. “I knew I couldn’t go back to school now.”
Even though he hasn’t seen the insides of a classroom for quite a while, he learned that he would be able to graduate after someone reviewed the transcripts from the 1940s.
It turns out that man did, in fact, finish the required amount of courses in order to get an associate’s degree, which is a two-year diploma and program.
At the time, the university didn’t have associate’s degrees, and Bob focused on his career and family rather than his studies.
“I’m going to be proud to hang that diploma on the wall and think about the friends behind it,” Bob says with pride. “I found out without friends, this old world wouldn’t be worth living in.”
Bob’s qualification for the diploma was brought to his attention by his friend Haraz Ghanbari, who works as a Navy Reserve officer and also serves as the university’s director of military and veteran affairs.
After talking about military promotions, Haraz realized that Bob never actually received any diploma and didn’t graduate. However, he saw that the man had taken enough courses in a period of three years. Haraz was determined to dig deep and see if Bob could still get recognition for his academical career.
“We actually had to go into the archives to find his transcripts,” dean of University College at Toledo Barbara Miller told.
They discovered that the veteran actually completed 83 study credits, which was more than sufficient for the associate’s degree. According to the dean, Bob is the oldest graduate ever in the history of the university.
“It’s the right thing to do. He deserved. He earned it,” the dean added. “It’s so cool to honor a member of our greatest generation.”
The former veteran stayed in the Navy for a while after World War II ended, but decided to take a different career path after he saw friends of his getting hurt by an explosion. He originally wanted to spend the rest of his working days in the military, but changed his mind and switched to a business and advertising education at the university. Bob has some fond memories of the history classes, in particular.
Because the man was already working for a paper company, it never really crossed his mind that he could actually graduate, especially because the associate degrees weren’t introduced yet.
“I can’t believe this. I’m 96 years old,” Bob said.
Bob’s graduation hasn’t gone unnoticed as well – the entire crowd knew what kind of special moment they were witnessing and the applause he received was deafening.
The Student Veterans of America organization also bought a special cap and gown for the man, so he could look absolutely stunning on his big day.
“It fit. I guess I look pretty good in it.”
The senior veteran is now residing in an assisted living center, and they wanted to do something special for Bob as well. They’re throwing a huge graduation party and more than 100 people are going to be invited.
It’s never too late to chase your dreams!
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