77-Year-Old Is Oldest of UMUC's Graduating Class

Douglas Kruse, 77, graduated with a bachelor's degree in environmental management

It's one thing to graduate from college when you are in your 20s, but imagine trying to earn your college education when you're in your late 70s.

Douglas Kruse, 77, graduated with thousands of other students last month from the University of Maryland University College. He received a bachelor's degree in environmental management that he earned by taking courses online.

Kruse said he was determined to get his college education, and he even wants to get his master's degree.

"It was an objective that I set for myself in the early days," he said. "And finally, the business was sufficiently successful and I had a little better staff working with me where I could then do my regular business work during the day, do my University of Maryland college online a little bit during the day, but mostly evenings and weekends. I greatly enjoyed that program because it gave me a little more expertise in writing, which was one of my light areas in earlier days."

Kruse said he had originally intended to pursue his graduation earlier in his life.

"Well, I started out at the University of Maryland in 1954 after graduating from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. I greatly enjoyed attending college."

However, one accident that happened while he was in college, he said, changed his entire life.

"I was involved in an automotive accident where a car ran through a stop sign and hit me," he said. "I had no funds to continue the next year, and when I did come back, it was a little irregular."

As he struggled to figure out what to do, Kruse said the opportunity to go to California came out of nowhere. Looking back, Kruse said it was an opportunity that would set him on the path of becoming an entrepreneur.

"I ended up getting a good introduction to starting your own business and very shortly, I had my own business, starting in 1961," he said.

Kruse emphasized that he started his business with only $37.

"I started out with virtually no money of my own for really starting a big business. It was just pocket change, and then I had a business that grew to the point where I was very active in auto racing, building race cars, and aluminum sheet metal parts for racing aircrafts. All this work in racing introduced me to many companies who were manufacturing parts."

After this introduction, Kruse decided to focus his business on general prototyping.

Years later, after operating several businesses, he wanted to go back and get his degrees.

He credits enthusiasm, good friends, and a good work ethic for helping him to be successful not only in his business ventures, but also in pursuing his college education.

Kruse advises any person who wants to get a college education to just go for it -- regardless of their age.

"If you have the time to do it, it is very worthwhile," he said. "The longer you've been out of school, the more you'll enjoy it. If you get on UMUC, it allows you to work at your own pace. If you really want to do it, then you'll make it happen. It will get you the results that you're looking for and you'll be a better person for it."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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