NORTHBROOK, IL — Among the many members of the class of 2016 across the country is one graduate whose academic career is 50 years in the making.
Jerry Pollard received his bachelor’s degree in history from Northeastern Illinois University. He’s older than any of his peers — at 84 years old.
“When I retired I had no hobbies. I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Pollard said, “and I thought, well, I’ll go back and get the education that I should’ve got 50 years earlier. ”
The process has taken a while. Pollard began taking classes 16 years ago. He took one class a semester. This year, he had enough credits to walk across the stage.
Remarkably, though, graduation is not the only major life achievement he has accomplished this year. In March, he climbed Mount Everest.
“Everybody on that mountain knew there was an 83-year-old guy named Jerry climbing,” he said. “I was stopped by people, ‘hey, you’re Jerry! Can I take my picture with you?'”
His goal was to reach 18 thousand feet. He made it to 14,700 feet before he had to stop.
Naturally, that’s something he’s proud of — so much so, he’s decorated his graduation cap with “14.7K”.
His family is also proud. His daughter Cindy calls him an inspiration.
“Listen. He’s 84. He’s going to do what he wants to do,” she said.
Graduation does not mark the end of Pollard’s academic career, though. He’s enrolled for another class in the fall semester.
“I was thinking of enrolling in Northwestern medical school,” he joked, to the laughter of his family.