As reported in the Bend Bulletin on June 7th, Bend resident Robert Weed recently finished his final courses for a Bachelor of Science in liberal studies from Oregon State University-Cascades, nearly 70 years after taking his first stab at higher education at Oregon State in the 1950s. According to a university spokesperson, he is the college’s oldest graduate this year.
“I decided, if I’m ever going to do it, this is it,” Weed said. “So, I did.” In January 2020, after a 35-year career in radio and 20 years in computer supplies, Weed enrolled at OSU-Cascades. Weed had always wanted to fulfill his “burning desire to have a degree” and “keep up with what’s new.”
But even at 85, Weed says his college experience hasn’t come easy. At first, he was overwhelmed by the technology students had to navigate to get through college, including calculators he didn’t know how to use. Soon, he was so hard at work that “people wondered what happened to me,” he said. On Tuesday, he quickly described the looming presentations and papers he had yet to complete before graduating. Even at the end of college, “They don’t give you a break,” he said.
Significant help came from his statistics tutor, Keera Puett, a 20-year-old biology and kinesiology major at OSU-Cascades. Puett knew Weed would likely struggle in the course. He hadn’t stepped foot in a math classroom for 50 years. But she was also struck by his perseverance. The two worked six hours per week for 11 weeks straight, and Puett watched Weed take hundreds of pages of notes.
“I knew he could do it,” she said, “I appreciated that he wasn’t willing to give up.”
But his biggest supporter, Weed said, is his wife of 40 years, Nora Weed. At 74, she edited his papers and helped him prepare presentations for class. He said she is a blunt but supportive editor, saying, “You missed the mark on this, Bob.”
Weed said he would encourage younger generations to pursue higher education however they can, despite how expensive college can be. But he said: “If you don’t know what you want to do, go do some things and go to college later.”
“You’re never too old to learn,” he said. “I’m proof of that.”
At the end of his college career, Weed said he felt both “exhilarated” and “relieved.” He plans to attend the college’s graduation ceremony on Sunday. His wife, brother, three children, and stepson plan to attend.
But Weed isn’t done. He said he’s now considering auditing college courses in his free time.
More information about free products and services for seniors, including education, on the Council on Aging blog.