77-Year-Old Proves It's Never too Late to Pursue Degree
COLUMBUS, Ga.—If you ever doubted the adage that it’s never too late to complete an education, talk to 77-year-old Don Boynton, who will graduate May 12 as Columbus State University’s political science student of the year.
“All of us have dreams and goals, and yes, life is full of obstacles, but there is always a way to accomplish your goals if you really want to,” Boynton said.
For Boynton his lifelong goal of completing a college education was rekindled in 1993 after reading an article in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that focused on the Columbus College adult re-entry program .“After reading the article, I figured it was time for me to finish what I had always intended to do,” Boynton said. “Guess what? I did.”
It just took about 55 years.
After serving 18 months, 1952 to 1954, in the Korean conflict and earning the Bronze Star for meritorious service, Boynton returned to his hometown of Manchester, Ga., where he still lives with his wife of 59 years, Betty, and took a job working in a local textile mill. Boynton also began pursuing his educational dream by taking business courses at night, but the need to support his family became more of a priority than continuing his education.
“I had worked for the mill for several years, but in 1962 a friend contacted me about managing a local loan company he owned,” Boynton said. “It was one of those businesses where we sold insurance, real estate and provided financing. A one-stop kind of place, but they needed someone they could trust to look after the money and so I took the job.”
For about five years, Boynton stayed busy managing the loan company and another five years managing a printing business for the same company until opportunity knocked once more.
“I had worked for someone most of my life, but in 1972 I had the opportunity to go out on my own and established a printing business in Manchester,” Boynton said. “It was a good move for me and my family and, for the next 21 years that’s what we did.”
Off and on during these years, another friend occasionally approached Boynton and suggested that if, or when, he ever got to the place where he wanted to retire and sell his business to make sure he called him first. “One day I was at the plant, had talked to my wife and decided on the spot that it was time for me to get out of the business and move on,” Boynton said. “I called my friend, we worked out a deal and I drifted off into retirement.”
Retirement allowed Boynton to pursue a lifelong love of flying and motorcycles. He had ridden his first Harley and flew his first solo flight in the same year —when was 15 years old.
Still, there was something missing.
“Heck, I was caught up with the ‘honey-do list’ my wife had set for me six months after selling the business. I was riding my motorcycle and loved it, but I needed something else to do,” Boynton said. “In the back of my mind, I was still haunted by the fact that I had not completed my formal college education and that was about the time I read about the adult re-entry program at CSU.”
That was all it took. Boynton made the drive to Columbus, walked into the adult reentry program and registered for the adult re-entry classes and, upon completion, entered into political science studies.
“I figured I had already done the business thing and wanted to do something different,” he said. “Although I had no interest in running for office, studying political science seemed pretty fascinating. I’m often asked how it felt being in classes with much younger students. It was never a problem at all. They accepted me from the very beginning, as did the faculty at CSU. I know of no other university that could have been better for me than Columbus State.”
One of Boynton’s professors, Political Science Department Chair Tom Dolan, described Boynton as a model student. “I’ve had the pleasure of having Don in my class for several years now, and his study habits are some of the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Older students like Don have a wealth of knowledge, and I wish I could motivate some of my 18- and 19-year-old freshmen to study and pursue learning the way Don does.”
As for Boynton’s scholarly endeavors, all was going according to plan until he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1996.
“That sort of hindered my studies for awhile,” he said. “But, once I got through the chemo and other treatments, I jumped right back into my studies.” There was one other problem that came up in 2001 – lung cancer and another lengthy recovery period.
“It was a tough time but I continued going to classes as I could and I’m still here, a survivor and doing well,” he said. “My wife, my daughter, Elizabeth, and so many others, including the faculty and students here at CSU, have been amazingly supportive.”
Boynton understands there are certainly issues of life that may hinder accomplishing certain life goals, but he said age should never deter anyone in their pursuit of a college education.
“It should never be a factor. As you get closer to the end of life, set goals,” he said. “You never know what’s waiting for you tomorrow. You do not know how much time you have. Think young. Keep moving. Enjoy life.”
Enjoying life is exactly what Boynton is now doing.
Asked what’s next, Boynton laughed and said, “Walking down that aisle and accepting my degree. After that, who knows, but one thing is for sure, I’m not finished being useful just yet.”
• Contact: CSU Public Relations, 706-568-2029 or 706-568-2030
• CSU spring graduation ceremonies are 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12 in the Lumpkin Center. or more information, go to http://graduation.colstate.edu.
• For more information about CSU’s adult re-entry program, visit http://uc.colstate.edu/adult_program.asp.