May 13, 2010

USA: 72-Year-Old Man Graduates From College

HOUSTON, Texas / MyFoxHouston / News / May 13, 2010

By Sally MacDonald

KEMAH, Texas - It's never too late to change your life. Just ask a great-grandfather from Kemah who received his college diploma Thursday night. Larry Purswell, 72, graduated with honors and a 3.7 GPA from College of the Mainland.

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At first Purswell didn't plan to walk at the graduation ceremony.

"He didn't want all the attention," said Ellie Purswell, his wife.

But that changed when dozens of family members came into town with signs reading, "We love you Pa Pa"
and "Larry for Governor."

Unfortunate circumstances led Purswell to this day. He worked his entire life as a plant operator for Tenneco Oil and later Enron.

When the company collapsed, his retirement savings disappeared, too.

"You have to pick up and go on. Find another career if you're not too old," said Purswell.

He found a job as a lab tech at College of the Mainland.

"Students kept coming up to him asking him questions. He said, 'Well, you know, maybe I ought to start teaching these students formally," said Jerry Duncan, the department chair of the process technology program.
In order to teach, he needed a degree.

So Purswell bought books, enrolled in classes and started doing homework. He became a student for the first time in 50 years.

"There weren't any PCs, no cell phones, no text messaging back then," said Purswell.

What he offered to students and his teachers was real world knowledge.

"He gave us a lot of good stories that made us feel comfortable working in the industry," said Jonathan Haskin, one of Purswell's much younger classmates.

Five years after enrolling, Purswell graduated with an associate's degree in process technology.

"I suppose I should say I feel accomplishment since we've finally gotten here," said Purswell.

"I never thought when I married him I'd see him be a graduate," said Mrs. Purswell.

The best part is Purswell doesn't have to go for an interview in a tough job market. The College of the Mainland has already given him an office. [rc]

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