Rich Osborn had accomplished a lot by the time he retired in 1999.
He served his country during the Vietnam War. He and his wife raised three kids. He flew as a pilot for Northwest Airlines for 33 years, retiring as a 747 pilot.
But he never earned a college degree. That, however, will change on Sunday.
While each of the 167 undergraduate students eligible to go through commencement on Sunday has their own story, the 69-year-old Osborn will certainly be among the oldest Augsburg for Adults students to ever graduate.
“This has just been a tremendous experience,” said Osborn, who will graduate with honors and a degree in English.
Osborn spent two years at Michigan State University right out of high school but said that college wasn’t right at that time of his life. He joined the Naval Reserve, and his unit was called up. When he got out of the Navy in 1964, he earned an Associates degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and began flying for Northwest shortly after.
Since piloting his final Northwest flight, he has worked part-time at the University of Minnesota’s Academic Health Center, role playing with students learning to be doctors.
“After five years of that, I said, ‘I’m going to go back to college,'” Osborn said. “Three years ago when my wife came home one day and I said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.'”
His family was thrilled with the decision, and his friends have been complementary and supportive through the process.
After originally planning to study in the biological sciences, Osborn was hooked by English 111 and began studying creative writing. Like many adult learners, Osborn had times when he wondered what he had gotten himself into—and he wasn’t balancing school, work, and a young family like many students.
“It was the middle of my first year and I was taking macroeconomics and an English course,” said Osborn, who made the dean’s list several times during his time at Augsburg. “The work was piling on and I thought, ‘Why am I doing this?’ But I just plugged along.”
There have been times over the past few years when he was in classes with both weekend and day students. In those classes, Osborn was close to 50 years older than some of his classmates. And it’s possible some of those day students have grandparents younger than Osborn.
“I was very well accepted by everyone at Augsburg,” Osborn said. “After my Keystone class, a couple of young guys gave me hug and told me that I was a good addition to the class. That was nice.”
With his degree complete, Osborn is going to continue living his motto of refusing to grow old while sitting down.
“I’d like to do volunteer work with high school students who have problems writing,” he said. “I am going to continue to write. I’ll probably never be John Updike, but I enjoy it.”
And on Sunday, he’ll have his college degree.