Bob Dwyer is older than his classmates and his professors and is more than 20 years older than the university he attends. He doesn’t live in a dormitory or in student housing -- the 90-year old resides at an assisted living facility.
Dwyer, who turns 91 on May 21, will become the oldest student to receive his first bachelor’s degree at Northeastern Illinois University since the school began keeping those records in 1962, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Dwyer, who has 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, will receive his degree in interdisciplinary studies May 6, the newspaper reported. He took his last final exam Wednesday in his conflict communications class.
“Can you just imagine how much more you’d get out of your college days if you had them to redo now?” David Milsky, who taught Dwyer in a philosophy class, told the Tribune. “Here’s a person who is there solely for the intrinsic, intellectual value of higher education itself, not as an investment into a career they’re hoping to launch.”
Born in Chicago, Dwyer enlisted in the Army eight days after graduating high school, the newspaper reported. In 1948, he enrolled at Wright Junior College in Chicago, and after two years transferred to Chicago Teachers College, finishing his third year.
“I planned on becoming a teacher,” Dwyer told the Tribune. “I was interested in grammar school, teaching general education. I enjoyed working with the young people.”
Dwyer met his wife while attending Wright Junior College, the newspaper reported. He dropped out of school and went into the manufacturing business. Dwyer married Peggy Beadsgaard in 1956, and the couple had nine children.
“The (children) all have attended college. They either have a bachelor’s degree, some have associate degrees or master’s degrees, one has a doctorate,” Dwyer told the Tribune. “It’s just a personal achievement — I should not have dropped out.”
After his wife’s death in 2010, Dwyer decided to return to college and pursue his degree. He spread out his remaining year of classes over the past two years.
“I thought I knew a lot of things and I found out there was a lot I didn’t know,” Dwyer told the Tribune. “You have to do a lot of reading and as you get older you just don’t retain information as easily. I had to work a little harder and it took me twice the time, but I got through it.”
Dwyer said he had no regrets about waiting more than 60 years to get his degree, and said he was going to relax after receiving his diploma. He called college work “a 24/7 endeavor.”
“I have no regrets,” Dwyer told the Tribune. “Basically, education is always a plus and we can never have too much of it.”