Proud to be from Pittsburgh: 80-year-old man becomes oldest person to graduate from local college

BUTLER, Pa. — He served his country abroad, but there was always something back home he wanted to accomplish.

Decades later, a Butler County man finally has his college degree in hand.

Channel 11 caught up with Don Thomas just ahead of the Fourth of July. Thomas served in the Air Force in France in the 1950s. It was post-World War II and Thomas was tasked with learning French so he could help communicate with crews working to repair the country. Beyond learning French, he never got to finish up his college education. He returned home, got a job and started a family, but college was always on the back of his mind.

"It's something I have always wanted," Thomas said.

In 2010, he decided it was time to restart his pursuit for a degree at Butler County Community College.


"I fell in love," Thomas told us about the college.  "I really said to myself, this is what I wanted.  Low-key."

Slowly but surely, Thomas made it through all the requirements he needed to earn his history major. Just before graduation, he got a special honor in Congress from his local representative, Mike Kelly.

"His unwavering dedication, passion is not only inspiring and amazing, it is quintessentially American," Kelly said on the House floor. "It is who we are as the American people."

Thomas graduated with students decades his junior, but had a poignant message for anyone looking to get a college degree.

"I say, look what I have done," Thomas said.  "If you do a tenth of what I've done, you're a winner."