Gary Reece walked across the stage of College View Church to receive his Union College diploma on Sunday—44 years after he first enrolled. After losing multiple jobs thanks to a tightening labor market, Reece left his family back in San Jose, Calif., for a few months and moved into the men’s residence hall to finish the degree he started in 1972.
His story is so unique, the Wall Street Journal used Reece to illustrate an article about the effects of economic recession in the May 10 edition. Read it on WSJ.com (you’ll need a subscription).
Even during his short time back Union, the school made a lasting impression. “From the first student I met, there was no question I was at a Christian school,” Reece said. “Lenny Finn, a fellow second-semester transfer] met me and we shared that we were both arriving at the same time for the spring semester. I don’t know how he got plugged in so fast, but he immediately took a leadership role in spiritual activities on campus. I found those I met through him to be students very serious in their spiritual journey. I left more committed to having a role in the salvation of others and determined to keep heaven as a target for my own journey.”
Reece also found inspiration in his coursework. “Dr. Ed Allen taught my History of Adventist Church class and I found wonderful insight that gives me even more evidence of the alignment of this church to scripture.”
Union is primarily a made of traditional college students who arrive straight out of high school—full of energy and short on experience. Reece feared his age might distance him from both students and faculty. “How wrong I was,” he explained. “While we joked on occasion about my age, much of the time I forgot how old I was. The faculty and students made me feel like I belonged there. They would invite me to activities, join me at meals, and made my experience one that I will long remember and treasure.”