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As long as you have the will, it’s never too late to find your way to a degree.

Oregon State’s oldest 2017 graduate earned his degree online through Ecampus

Oregon State's oldest 2017 graduate, Jerry Kight, poses with Benny the Beaver on graduation day.

Oregon State’s oldest 2017 graduate, Jerry Kight, pictured above, walked at this year’s 148th commencement ceremony. After serving in the military, raising a family, working in the computer industry and retiring, Jerry went back to school, eventually earning his liberal studies degree online through Oregon State Ecampus 52 years after he started it at Oregon State.

By Heather Doherty  
July 6, 2017

Oregon State University graduated a record 6,807 students this year at its 148th commencement ceremony June 17.

The youngest graduate is 19 years old.

The oldest graduate? He’s 74 years old.

His name is Jerry Kight. And he earned a degree in liberal studies.

Jerry KightPlay

At 74 years old, Jerry Kight proves it’s never too late to earn a degree. Watch this video to learn more about Jerry and his story.

“I’m proud of myself and my wife for helping me do this and encouraging me to do it, and my kids, also,” Jerry says.

But you wouldn’t have seen him sitting in class on campus this past year. That’s because he finished his degree online through Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s online education division.

“It was really interesting to see the different perspectives from the young kids these days,” says Jerry, who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “I have grandkids that are older than my classmates, but there are some sharp, sharp, sharp kids out there. There really are.”

Jerry started as a student on campus at Oregon State in the 1960s after graduating from Pacific High School in Port Orford, Oregon.

But during his senior year at OSU, he was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army special forces during the Vietnam War.

“While in the Army, I met and worked with an amazing number of committed soldiers, some of whom had fought in WWII and Korea. And many of whom died in Vietnam. I was also exposed to British SAS (Special Air Service) soldiers, a remarkably dedicated and professional group,” he says.

“I’m proud of myself and my wife for helping me do this and encouraging me to do it, and my kids, also.”

The Army sent him to live in North Carolina, where he met his wife, Pat. They have three children, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A worn black and white photo of Lt. Jerry Kight, U.S. Army, 1966.

Lt. Jerry Kight, U.S. Army, 1966.

When he wasn’t spending time with his ever-growing family, Jerry worked various jobs in the computer industry. 

But he never officially earned his degree that he started 52 years ago at Oregon State.

Until now.

“It was a really neat experience,” he says. “I enjoyed it. It was fun, and I’m proud.”

Accompanied by his family, Jerry attended the OSU Ecampus graduation reception and walked at this year’s commencement ceremony at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. He felt a sense of nostalgia being on campus so many years later.

“The campus really has changed. It has really grown a lot,” he says. “I stayed in Poling Hall when I was a freshman here. I can remember walking down to the ag area and getting ice cream for 25 cents. I worked in the student union for 90 cents an hour. It was interesting.”

So, what’s next for Jerry after graduation?

“I believe my career is over at 74, so I don’t think I’ll be looking for another job,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve been retired for 12 years and I volunteer at the hospital and do Meals on Wheels, so I’ll just continue doing that and reading up on stuff. It’s fun.”


  • Dewey Miller says:

    Way to go Jerry!! It is never too late to finish your degree. Also thanks to Pat for supporting your quest. :-D. Your fellow classmate. Dewey

  • Evelyn Lemberger says:

    Jerry…what an accomplishment! Good for you…just shows all seniors don’t just sit around! Congrats to you and your family..Evelyn

  • Don Price says:

    Cool, Jerry. It was great getting together. Sorry I didn’t make the graduation event but happy you and Pat were there. Congratulations.

  • Jim Gustafson says:

    Congrats Jerry. Such an accomplishment ! Nice to receive good news. Way to go. Jim Gustafson

  • Gary Platt says:

    Congratulations Jerry! A job well done! A great job on all fronts! Best wishes!
    Gary Platt

  • Cinny Graham says:

    Congratulations, Jerry. You are an inspiration and a scholar! I am so proud to know you and your wonderful wife, Pat. Way to go, my friend!

  • Jim Phillips says:

    I’ve known Jerry and his wife Pat for over thirty years here in NC. You will never meet a more generous and caring couple, still very active (and young-at-heart)through their volunteer work in the local community.
    Congratulations Jerry and Pat on this impressive accomplishment!

  • Karen Gavin-McCarthy says:

    Congratulations. I am a director of an adult education program in MI. We are having a graduation ceremony for one man who completed his high school diploma with us. He is in his 50s. I would like to reference your story in my closing remarks. I loved reading about your journey!

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