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CSUB graduation - 75 year-old earns BA
 
June 7, 2005
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or mstepanovich@csub.edu

Frank King is getting a birthday present this year that not many 75-year-olds even contemplate – a bachelor’s degree.

On Saturday morning (June 11), King, whose 75th birthday is June 18, will walk into the California State University, Bakersfield Amphitheater along with nearly 800 fellow graduates of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences to receive his diploma. It’s the culmination of something he’s always wanted to do but because of family and job responsibilities never had the chance – until now.

“This is for me,” he said. “People ask me what I’m going to do with this degree, and I tell them, ‘Nothing. This is for me.’ People don’t understand it.”

What makes the story even more intriguing is that he took an anthropology course as part of his minor from his daughter, Dixie King. Dixie, who graduated from CSUB in 1978 with a double major in history and anthropology, earned her doctorate in anthropology from UCLA. She founded her own company, Transforming Local Communities, Inc. “We do research and program evaluation for health related programs, and work with schools and public agencies, providing training and consulting services,” she said.

The first person in her immediate family to attend college, Dixie occasionally teaches classes for CSUB’s anthropology department. She’ll soon be joined by her father as a college graduate.
“Dad is the second generation to graduate from college, but we did it in the opposite direction,” she laughed.

She also noted that Frank didn’t study for the final exam in her class. “But I got a B,” he offered defensively. That was probably due to the generosity of a colleague whom Dixie asked to grade his papers and final, she said. “I’d have been tougher,” she added with a grin.

Frank, however, thinks statistics, a general education requirement, is tougher. He’s worried about his grade in that class. “I went up to the professor and asked her, ‘Don’t I come under the no-child-left-behind act?’ I thought she would die laughing.”

Education is no laughing matter, though, to Frank. It’s something he’s always craved but never had the opportunity to pursue. He was born in Paso Robles in 1930, but his family moved a lot when he was growing up. “We lived all over the western United States,” Frank said. “My parents loved to move. Sometimes they’d move for no reason at all other than they liked the name of a town.”
“I think Dad’s achievements are all the more astonishing because they moved constantly,” Dixie said. “He went to 38 schools before he graduated from high school.”

After finishing high school in Colorado, Frank worked some jobs in Kansas, then served with the Marine Corps in Korea, before returning to California in 1953 and a job with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in Bakersfield. He was a conductor and brakeman for the railroad before retiring in 1994.

School was always in the back of his mind, and “I would have probably gone to school before I did, but I was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “So that eliminated any possibility of schooling or anything else, really.”

But once he retired it didn’t take long for the educational itch to need a scratch. “I always wanted to go to school – I liked school as a kid – but the money was not there,” he said. But about eight or nine months after I retired I talked to Dixie about it. I told her, ‘I’m thinking about going back to school.’”

Dixie was thrilled. She took him to Bakersfield College, where he met with college officials, and made arrangements to enroll. And in the fall 1995, then-65-year-old Frank King began his college career.

He remembers his first day vividly. “When I opened that door the first time I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time. To be truthful about it, it was kind of scary.”

Said Dixie: “You were scared to death.”

He’s had a few starts and stops along the way – he sat out a year in 1999 because of illness – but he earned his associate's degree from BC, and enrolled at CSUB in fall 2000. He took a class or two a quarter, occasionally skipping a quarter to indulge in his favorite pastime – travel. And his travels influenced his choice of a major.

“I chose history because of my love of travel,” he said. “I’ve been on every continent on the globe: my last trip was to Antarctica. Travel and history go together. I’ve always loved history. We moved a lot when I was a kid, and whenever we moved, we would stop and see every historical monument and historical marker along the way. History is a subject I never got tired of. My dad loved history; he was an expert on Colorado ghost towns. He knew the legends of all the old ghost towns.”

And while he doesn’t anticipate going on for a master’s degree, he doesn’t plan to stop going to school. “There are so many more courses I want to take,” he said, reeling off a laundry list of history courses he’s interested in.
His courses at CSUB have modified his outlook on life. He says he knows he’s changed. And he’s glad.

“Going to school has been a real education,” he said.

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