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96-year-old man becomes Italy’s oldest university graduate

At age 93, Giuseppe Paterno gave himself a pep talk, and it was the push he needed to go back to school.

Paterno lives in Palermo, Italy, and is a retired railway worker. Growing up, his family was poor, and he only received a basic education. An avid reader his entire life, he earned his high school degree at age 31, and in 2017, finally decided to enroll in college. “I said, ‘That’s it, now or never,'” Paterno told Reuters.

He signed up for classes at the University of Palermo, focusing on history and philosophy courses. “I understand that it was a little late to get a three-year degree, but I said to myself, ‘Let’s see if I can do it,'” Paterno said. He used a typewriter for his assignments, and read from books he could hold in his hands, not digital copies.

Last week, the 96-year-old grandfather graduated first in his class with top honors, becoming Italy’s oldest ever university graduate. He may be finished with his courses, but Paterno’s not done learning, and plans on spending his days writing and revisiting “all the texts I didn’t have a chance to explore further.” The way he sees it, “knowledge is like a suitcase that I carry with me. It is a treasure.”

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