Way Bandy has graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USF) nearly 50 years after he was last in school.
The grandfather of eight, 81, earned his bachelor’s degree on Dec. 15, when he walked across the graduation stage to receive his diploma. His wife Nancy and youngest son Kyle were cheering for him in the audience.
The ceremony came after a longtime promise to his mother, who died in 2003. “My mother, bless her heart … the thing she drilled into me as a child was, ‘The two of the most important things are your health and your word of honor. I want your word of honor that one day you’ll go back and get your degree,’ ” Bandy recalled to Good Morning America.
He also told the outlet that he dropped out of school to get married and start a family. But after his mother’s death, Bandy collected his college transcripts and applied to USF since he required one course to graduate.
When #USFgrad 🎓 Way Bandy was in college, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 and “Grease” was a box office smash.— USF (@USouthFlorida) December 10, 2019
Now, at age 81 – fulfilling a promise he made years ago – Bandy will receive a diploma more than 50 years in the making. 👉 https://t.co/GQyyWzRlxx pic.twitter.com/t2X06dRZWR
After studying hard to pass his final exam in biology, learning about the wetland environments, Bandy earned a B in the class.
“All of a sudden she was giving me hug, we’re doing a high-five and a fist bump,” he said of the teacher, who graded his final exam in front of him. “I get in the hallway, I threw up my arms like I did a touchdown and I screamed, ‘Yes! I did it!’ “
Bandy hopes to inspire other students, of any age and generation, to complete school if they have the opportunity to.
“Take your time, stay ahead of your goal and promise yourself you’ll finish,” he advised. “Whatever motivates you to do it, do it. If I can do it, anybody can — and I promise that from the bottom of my heart.”
The university also recognized Bandy as the class of 2019’s oldest graduate.