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72-year-old to fulfill a lifelong dream of finishing his degree
Ed Newman’s grandson asked him a simple question one day, sparking a series of events. He said, “Grandpa, I heard you never finished college, but look at everything you’ve accomplished. How close were you?”
“I didn’t know the answer, so I wrote a letter and got a response back that I only needed 25 credits,” Ed said. “I made a spot decision that I could do it. So I walked out to the living room and said, ‘Hey honey, I just enrolled back in college.’”
Now at 72 – more than 40 years after he started his college education – Ed is preparing to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in General Studies.
“I know the satisfaction I get when I walk across that stage is going to be great,” Ed said. “I tell my grandkids to never give up on their dreams. In the back of my mind I always wanted a degree and never got it, and I never realized how much I wanted it until my grandson asked me about it. I wanted to point to myself and say, ‘Hey guys, never give up the thought of something you want to pursue, even if it takes you 50 years, because the satisfaction is worth it.’”
Ed initially started his bachelor’s degree in the 1970s when City University of Seattle was offering classes near the airport in Spokane, but a series of life events drew him away from school.
“During this time I started my own business, and to my surprise, it took off like wildfire,” Ed said “Between the business taking off, being in the Washington Air Guard, my wife informing me we had a little one on the way, building a house and my GI Bill running out, I dropped out. I never thought about it because I had a very successful career.”
Now on top of his successful career, he’ll be able to celebrate his academic success.
“I am so looking forward to graduation,” Ed said. “I’m one of those people that prides myself that when I start something I’m going to finish it. I started school and I never finished, and now I’m finally finishing. I’m doing what I all the time preach – if you make a promise to yourself uphold it. I’ll finally complete that promise to myself.”
Ed’s wife and daughters are all college graduates, but he’ll be the first one among his childhood family to earn a four-year college degree.
“I’ll have checked off that one box that had never been cleared,” Ed said. “Neither one of my folks graduated from high school; they were both hard working factory workers. Neither of my brothers got a four-year college degree. So I can say, in my generation and my family, I’ll be the only one that got a college degree… All four of my grandkids I can see getting degrees, and by golly I got a degree and they’re going to follow me through those steps.”
Inspiring others to action
“I told my wife that I was going to design my capstone course as if I was going to go out and become a professional speaker,” Ed said. “Now I am going to pursue a speaking career, and I attribute it to the college. I enjoy speaking, but I’d never have gone out and actively looked for engagements.”
During his first professional speech, he plans to highlight his experience finishing his college degree in hopes of inspiring others.
“I am in Toastmasters, and at the community center where we meet they were looking for a speaker for an elderly group,” Ed said. “I told them, ‘what about my speech about me graduating from college at my age? Then challenging them to set goals, because if you set some goals you’ll stay young.’ …There are several retirement and assisted living communities, and if I can reach out to them and bring them joy and help them see there is a reason to be here, I’ll be very satisfied.”
He is also interested in sharing advice with those younger than him.
“I’ll also talk to the younger generation and tell them that there are going to be setbacks, but to keep plugging away at their dreams and not give up,” Ed said. “It may take 50 years, but keeping working and you’ll get there.”
Ed is a perfect example of just that. Although life circumstances have caused him setbacks, he made a promise to himself, and now he’s getting to where he dreamed of one day being: college graduation.
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