When William Hussey attended high school in the 1940s, his favorite subject was football. Now, 66 years later, he has an associate degree in business administration and a newfound passion for philosophy.
After missing out on graduation festivities for the University of Phoenix's Raleigh campus center in April because of health issues, Hussey was set to walk with approximately 680 graduating students at the Charlotte campus commencement on Saturday.
"I tried a lot of things in my life and (going back to school) was something totally out of the park," said Hussey, who turned 85 in March and still lives in his hometown of Wallace, about 70 miles southeast of Fayetteville. "I was not very interested in school. I had a lot of curiosity ... but this was something I wanted to achieve."
The University of Phoenix ceremony was held at the Bojangles' Coliseum but was missing one very important guest.
Hussey had to have a second hip replacement surgery in June and was still in recovery in Wallace this weekend.
It's an unexpected setback for the graduate, who has never let his age stand in the way of his dreams.
Hussey enrolled two years ago in the university's online degree program after he applied with the state for a job as a mediator and found out that he needed a college degree. Previously, he had worked for about 15 years as a court magistrate in Duplin County.
"They said I qualified for everything except having a college education," Hussey said. "So my daughter said, 'We'll get you a college education.'"
His wife, Mildred Hussey, 80, returned to school when she was in her late 40s and obtained a degree in education from Shaw University in Raleigh. She now teaches students attempting to get their GED at a satellite school of James Sprunt Community College in Wallace.
Candice Morgan, director of the University of Phoenix's Raleigh campus, said she thought what William Hussey was doing is amazing. "I think a lot of people get to that point in their life and they say, 'You know what? I'm too old,'" she said Saturday. "But I think this is an inspiration to show them that they can go back." But Hussey's road to graduation wasn't easy. He had his first job at the age of 9 working with his family in the tobacco warehouse business -- at that time, child labor laws did not exist. He was in the tobacco business until his 40s when he began working for an oil distributor and helped start the Scotchman convenience stores. Hussey said he had learned much from his life, but that his college education has brought him a new sort of knowledge, including his appreciation for philosophy. "Getting into the minds of all those great people and how they think, it was just interesting," he said. "I'd never had anything like that." A lot of things have changed since the last time he was in school. One of the biggest adjustments, he said, was studying online. "I got really frustrated with the computer," he laughed. "I wanted to destroy it. My daughter helped me get through that." Although Hussey took some classes on the Raleigh campus when he started, he did most of his studies online. The University of Phoenix provides college-level classes through online programs and at campus centers across the nation. Hussey said technical assistance from his daughter, Faye Hussey, who works as an accountant in Raleigh, and his granddaughter Georgia Hussey, who works in furniture sales in Oregon, was a big help. Georgia Hussey, 31, said many people today take using computers for granted, but for her grandfather "it's like another whole language, both visually and verbally." But there was no holding back Hussey, a man whose granddaughter says would go up and talk to any stranger on the street because he thought he could learn something from everyone. "When I was very young, I remember going to Sunday school with him and he was always studying theology," she said. "And even though he didn't have a college education, I still knew he was the smartest man I knew." Hussey wants to continue pursuing his dream to become a mediator and has already started work on a bachelor's degree in business management with the University of Phoenix. He has about three years of work left. "Regardless of where you're stopping your education and your age, there's always an opportunity to achieve any degree that you desire," he said. "Just hard work and make up your mind to do it. ... I certainly didn't think I was college material." // var ranNum = Math.round(Math.random()*1000000); document.write('http://content.yellowbrix.com/images/content/cimage.nsp?ctype=full_story&story_id=147547146&id=thirdage&ip_id=McClatchy-Tribune+Business+News&source_id=The+Charlotte+Observer+%28Charlotte%2C+N.C.%29&category=Computers&random=' + (ranNum));// ]]>//