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90-year-old becomes Northeastern Illinois’ oldest graduate

CHICAGO — A 90-year-old great-grandfather made history by becoming the oldest student to earn a bachelor's degree from Northeastern Illinois University since the school started keeping records in 1962.

Bob Dwyer, a great-grandfather, Army veteran and retired widower, graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies on Monday.

"Education is always a plus and we can never have too much of it," Dwyer told the Chicago Tribune.

Daniel Milsky, a professor who taught Dwyer philosophy last fall, said he believes his other students benefited from having someone in the course with more life experience.

Dwyer was born in Chicago in 1928. Dwyer said he enlisted in the Army in 1946, just eight days after his high school graduation, and served stateside for a year and a half. By 1948, he was enrolled in Wright College, where he met his wife, Peggy. She went on to graduate, but he dropped out to start working. He said he never anticipated it would take him over half a century more to receive his degree.

The couple was married in 1956 until her death in 2010.

He chose to attend Northeastern Illinois University after Peggy's death, partly because enrolling helped him through the grieving process.

He settled upon majoring in interdisciplinary studies because it gave him an opportunity to take courses in a variety of subjects.

John Ross, another one of his instructors at Northeastern, said some of the older students, in their 30s and 40s, appreciated Dwyer because he reinforced their own decisions to return to college at an older age. Ross noted that some of the 18- to 22-year-olds also found Dwyer a source of inspiration.

"Obviously Bob doesn't need this for a career, he just loves knowledge and education for its own sake," he said.

Dwyer intends to slow down after graduation.

"I'm in the twilight of my life, I have to recognize that," he said. "I'm going to sit back and relax for a while. School has been a 24/7 endeavor."

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