87-year-old man earns doctorate from FIU
WEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) -- A South Florida man reached a major milestone in his life, becoming the oldest person to ever receive a diploma from Florida International University.
On Saturday, 87-year-old Richard Smith graduated from FIU with a doctorate degree in history. "I have been a very fortunate guy," said Smith.
Smith was one of over 3,400 students who received their degrees from the university this summer. He said, as he pursued his doctorate, he was often confused for a professor instead of a student. "You walk into the FIU campus, you see nobody but young people. No senior citizens at all. They look at me, and they think that I'm a professor," he said.
Smith's journey to higher learning was sidetracked when he was pulled out of the University of Pennsylvania to fight in World War II. "He's an individual who's part of the greatest generation, that generation of Americans who fought for our freedom in combat during World War II, so we are really pleased and honored that he can be getting a degree from us at this point in his life," said FIU President Mark Rosenberg.
After the war, Smith resumed his studies at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, where he earned his undergraduate degree on the GI Bill.
After graduating, Smith became a manager and later owned his father's business until he retired when he was 70 years old. Shortly thereafter, Smith decided to further his education. "When I retired, we came down here, and now the question is, 'What are you going to do?' And my wife Zenaida said, 'I don't want you around.'"
About 10 years ago, Smith received his master's degree. However, he returned to school as a hobby but later became immersed in his studies. "He's always been a leader and has always set the pace for everybody around him. This is astounding but not surprising," said Smith's daughter, Rande Smith.
Smith's other daughter, Betsy Anderson, said, "He's a student of life. He's someone that has always wanted to learn, always wanted to teach."
The now Dr. Smith plans to take time out to figure out his next move. "In the beginning of September, I'm going to sit down and think, now what should I do?" said Smith.
According to Smith, his wife of 34 years urged him to go back to school after she read about a senior citizens program and encouraged Smith to enroll.
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