- Giuseppe Paterno is a World War II veteran who has just become Italy’s oldest college graduate.
- The 96-year-old grew up during the Great Depression and didn’t have a chance to complete his studies before entering the Italian Navy, but he always maintained his desire to learn.
- He graduated from high school at age 31 and in 2017, enrolled at the University of Palermo in Sicily.
- “I understood that it was a little late to get a three-year degree, but I said to myself, ‘Let’s see if I can do it,'” he told Reuters.
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At 96 years old, World War II veteran Giuseppe Paterno is Italy’s oldest college graduate.
On July 29, Paterno finished at the top of his class with an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy from the University of Palermo in Sicily, the university confirmed in a message on its website.
Paterno never had a chance to complete his studies as a young man. He grew up during the Great Depression and enlisted in the Italian Navy during World War II. Later, he worked on the railway and started a family, he told Reuters.
After the war, Paterno went back to high school and graduated at 31
In 2017, Paterno enrolled at the University of Palermo to get his undergraduate degree. Using a typewriter his mother gave him in 1984 and used books rather than the internet, Paterno excelled in his studies.
Paterno’s sociology professor, Francesca Rizzuto, told him that he was an “example for younger students,” according to Reuters.
His younger classmates congratulated him for his achievement at the graduation ceremony, where he was pictured wearing a traditional laurel wreath.
Paterno had to finish his courses through online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic but said he was unfazed by the disease
“All of that strengthened us, all of my peer group, all of those who are still alive. It didn’t really scare us that much,” he told Reuters.
“Knowledge is like a suitcase that I carry with me,” Paterno said. “It is a treasure.”
Due to his age, Paterno spends much of his time at his apartment in Palermo. Now that he’s a graduate, he told Reuters that he wants to devote himself to writing.
“I want to revisit all the texts I didn’t have a chance to explore further. This is my goal,” he said.
Paterno’s graduation has earned him the title of being Italy’s oldest university diploma-holder. According to Guinness World Records, the world’s oldest college graduate was Shigemi Hirata of Japan, who was 96 years and 200 days old when he graduated from the Kyoto University of Art and Design.
Representatives for the University of Palermo did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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