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Army veteran graduates college at 72 amid coronavirus pandemic

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Posted at 4:05 PM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-08 21:21:33-04

NORFOLK, Va. -- At 72 years old, Army veteran Arthur Stanley decided to go back to school to finish his college degree at Regent University, 40 years since he last attended a college class.

"I'm thinking, 'Man, this is the opportunity to finish what I started,'" Stanley said.

He re-enrolled in 2017 and was set to graduate in 2020. But just before graduation, the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing many mass gatherings to stop and for the university to cancel its in-person graduation ceremony.

"Yeah, that is tough. It's hard, and I was looking forward to a little celebration," Stanley said. "Some friends coming from out of town, some relatives."

He looked to seeing relatives from all across the country to come for the big celebration. His wife, Rosalind, said they were going to celebrate at Stripers, a restaurant at the Waterside District.

Arthur looked forward to the convocation, he said. He added he is more upset for those much younger than him, like his grandson, who is also graduating from Regent University.

"Man, they were looking forward to that - the hugs and kisses, the family being around and so forth," Arthur said.

Stanley said he joined the Army in 1968 because he wanted to travel the world. He said he did get that opportunity visiting countries in Asia. Then, in 1971, he enrolled in some college courses at a local university in Washington when he was stationed there.

"I went to Yakima Valley College and did a college course that had to do with Indian history," Arthur explained. "I never went back to college again for about another four years. After that, it was a little bit here, a little bit there."

"The reason he did not finish school earlier is because he had family," Rosalind said. "He wanted to make sure his sons were okay, wanted to make sure the grandkids, the wife, all the kids were okay."

He considered going back to college after his retirement from civil service in the late 1980s. Fast forward almost 30 years - he enrolled once more and majored in history and political sciences -- two of his favorite subjects.

"I intentionally exposed myself to that type of thing, whether listening to TV or reading," Arthur said. "I found myself interested in that."

Related: Campus tours go virtual amid coronavirus

"To me, it's like he completed this major bucket list item," Rosalind said.

She said Regent University's convocation will be streamed online for the graduates and their families to see. The couple said their grandson, Reuben, is also graduating from the same university.

They will still celebrate with family, but virtually online. Arthur also offered this message to anyone who may think they are too old to go back to school.

"If you want to go back to school no matter what age you are, then do it, but be ready to focus," Arthur said, emphasizing some personal sacrifices may need to be made. "Do it and focus. Dig in, focus, do it."

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