ARLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Seventy-five-year-old Steve Kennedy has had a good life.
There is one regret.
“It never left me,” he admits.
He never graduated from college.
“It was always that thing in the back of your mind that says, ‘That was supposed to happen and it didn’t’,” he said.
Kennedy, who lives in DeSoto, was only nine credit hours short of qualifying for his degree, when he received a commission to the U.S. Army and was sent to Vietnam.
“Life just kept getting in the way,” he said.
He and his wife, Wilma, had two daughters and picked up a surrogate daughter, too, named Georgiana.
She later married a veteran of the Gulf War, Joe Carpenter, who in his 50s decided to get his college degree at Kennedy’s alma mater, UT Arlington.
For a school assignment, he interviewed his surrogate father-in-law about his first tour of duty during Vietnam War. It led to a conversation about the thing he never accomplished.
“I really realized this has impacted me more than I thought it did. You know, I tried to hide it from myself, if you will. It was just like… almost like I’d given up,” he said.
Now, it’s too late, he thought.
Carpenter, though wasn’t convinced.
He asked his professor about an honorary degree and he ran it up the chain at UTA.
It was all a secret from Kennedy, until the day he was asked to go to campus.
A dean broke the news of Carpenter’s request and UTA’s ultimate decision.
“She said, ‘We’re sorry. We can’t grant you an honorary degree because you’re qualified to graduate’,” Kennedy recalls.
The university had found his now 52-year-old transcript.
Because class credits have changed, it determined he had earned a degree after all.
A picture snapped in the moment shows his hands clasped, his mouth open in surprise.
He nearly cried, he admits.
“I choked,” he said.
“Yea, you did, and I knew you would,” replied Carpenter.
When UTA eventually holds its graduation ceremonies, both men say they will walk together.
“I can’t think of anyone I’d rather walk with,” said Carpenter.
They know they’re a bit older than most new college graduates.
It turns out, though, it never is too late to chase what it is you are missing.
“You could call it a dream come true. I never believed it would ever happened,” said Kennedy.
Both men are graduating with the same degree, a Bachelor of Arts in History.